More thoughts on reviving pupil support

10th April 2009 at 01:00

In his thoughtful, and thought-provoking, article (March 20), John Greenlees argues that it is time to revamp pupil support systems. While I applaud his insistence that high-quality teaching and learning is the most important activity in a school, I can't agree with much of the reasoning behind his dismay that his friend has become a principal teacher of pupil support and been partially "lost" to the classroom.

If his friend is an "effective and inspirational teacher", then that's what he is - not because he knows a lot about geography, or whatever subject, but because he relates well to young people, so he is an ideal person to lead pupil support.

I have to take issue with some of John's assertions. "Scotland's pupil support structure was established in the 1960s to deal with issues that are quite different from those interfering with learning today". First, that's a very negative view of pupil support, which is not just about problems but about making pupils feel valued because someone has time to take a real interest in them. It is also about establishing good links with the home, and taking an overview of pupils' progress, attainment and achievements as much as about helping when problems arise.

Surely it's a bit presumptuous to assume that John's friend was forced into pupil support because of a shortage of promotion opportunities, rather than that he sees the value of pupil support and wants to use his talents in that way - as well as remaining a teacher. It has been one of the abiding strengths of pupil support, or pastoral care, that those offering guidance are part of, not apart from, the everyday life of the school.

If pupil support teachers are neglecting their classes to deal with issues that crop up, then that's a management issue.

It's also the antithesis of what pupil support is meant to do, which is enhance young people's learning and ensure they are supported through their concerns. It is important that pupil support teachers take a very disciplined approach to time management - which is why John's friend has 10 additional non-contact periods.

Loretta Scott, quality improvement officer (pastoral care), Education department, Glasgow City Council.

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