Pupil development at risk

29th August 2003 at 01:00
Among the many questions facing schools as they return for the new session,"whither guidance?" must be fairly high on the puzzle list.

The point has been clearly made that principal teachers of guidance will suffer most of all in the gen-eral downgrading which has followed from the job-sizing exercise.

Moreover, early indications from a number of local authorities appear to suggest that separate dedicated provision from guidance professionals will be severely curtailed. Guidance, it appears, can now be tacked on to the normal teaching role, if the busy classroom teacher can find time for it.

Fat chance, then, for guidance.

So far, so bad - but are we missing a more subtle point here about the way that education is going in Scotland? The purpose of it all, surely, is to produce in modern Scotland a national community of enlightened individuals.

Educationists have always known that schools are about far more than simply drilling in the facts or imparting skills. School is where young people begin to think about themselves, their relationship to others, their views of what and why society and communities are and their part in these.

Teachers are therefore important to young people, but what they are as people is as important as what they teach as subjects. The establishment of the guidance system in Scottish schools formally acknowledged the importance of what schools did other than simply instruct.

I am hardly conceited enough to suggest that guidance teachersare the only ones who fosterpupils' personal development - all good teachers do so - but the dedicated guidance professional symbolised official endorsement of the broad view of education and indicated that it was important enough to have time and resources committed to this.

And now we have PricewaterhouseCoopers running the rule over our guidance system and deciding that it's not that important after all and should be downgraded. I take it that we are now going further down the road of an industrial model of education, where what is important is what can be measured and assessed in a mechanical fashion.

By devaluing the status of guidance teachers, we are sending a clear signal that what they represent above all else - the development of the whole child - is no longer of any great value.

The growth of the guidance system in Scottish schools over the past 30 years has been one of the most forward thinking developments in our educational system, admired and emulated far and wide furth of Scotland.

It is little wonder that this present sense of retreat from so much that has been achieved, a narrowing of the concept of what schools are about, causes the guidance professionals in our schools to feel grave concern for the future development of our pupils.

Innes F Murchie

Principal teacher of guidance

Bridge of Don Academy

Aberdeen

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