David Baxter, Dundee LA Secretary and Convener of the EIS Employment Relations Committee, makes the case for guidance teachers within the primary sector.
Scottish education is highly regarded worldwide for its progressive approach to teaching and learning. However, despite the many strengths of the Scottish education system, there are still areas that require improvement, and one such area is pastoral care. Pastoral care refers to the support given to pupils to promote their wellbeing and development. This includes addressing their social, emotional, and mental health needs. The introduction of guidance teachers in Scottish primary schools would significantly improve pastoral care, creating a more supportive and nurturing learning environment for pupils. The EIS has advocated for the introduction of guidance teachers in primary schools for several years now. The EIS believes that guidance teachers play a crucial role in supporting children’s social, emotional, and mental wellbeing and can help to address some of the challenges that children face in their early years.
The Current System:
Guidance teachers are specialist teachers who are responsible for pastoral care in secondary schools in Scotland. They work closely with pupils, providing guidance and support on a range of issues, including mental health, behaviour, and social skills. They also work closely with parents and carers to ensure that pupils receive the support they need both in and out of school.
Currently, primary schools in Scotland do not have guidance teachers. Instead, class teachers are responsible for all aspects of their pupils’ education, including pastoral care. While class teachers are skilled professionals who work hard to support their pupils, it can be challenging to balance their teaching responsibilities with the emotional and social needs of their pupils. This is particularly true in larger classes or when there are children with complex needs.
If guidance teachers were introduced into primary schools in Scotland, they could provide similar support to primary-aged children. This would include working with pupils on issues such as friendship problems, bullying, and emotional regulation. Guidance teachers could also work closely with parents and carers to ensure that pupils receive the support they need at home.
There are numerous benefits to introducing guidance teachers in Scottish primary schools.
- Improved Pastoral Care: With guidance teachers in place, pupils would have access to specialist support for their emotional and social needs.
- Increased Teacher Time: By taking on some of the pastoral care responsibilities, guidance teachers would free up class teachers’ time to focus on teaching and learning.
- Specialist Support: Guidance teachers are specialists in pastoral care, and they would be able to provide targeted support to pupils who need it. This would be particularly beneficial for pupils who are struggling with mental health issues, behavioural problems, or social skills.
- Improved Communication: Guidance teachers could work closely with parents and carers to ensure that pupils receive consistent support at home and at school.
- Early Intervention: By identifying and addressing issues early on, guidance teachers could prevent problems from escalating. This would be particularly beneficial for pupils who are struggling with mental health issues or behavioural problems.
- Positive Outcomes: Pupils who receive good pastoral care are more likely to achieve positive outcomes. With guidance teachers in primary schools, pupils would be more likely to achieve their full potential.
Scottish education has seen a squeeze on funding over the last decade plus, and hiring guidance teachers would require additional resources. An introduction of guidance cannot be at the deficit of classroom teachers. Another barrier is the lack of awareness about the benefits of guidance teachers. Many educators, parents, and policymakers may not fully understand the role that guidance teachers play in supporting children’s social, emotional, and mental wellbeing.
We need to campaign to increase funding for education to ensure that Councils have the resources to hire guidance teachers within their core budget. Additionally, there needs to be more awareness and education about the role of guidance teachers and the benefits they bring to children’s development. Finally, there could be a more collaborative approach between primary and secondary schools to share resources and expertise in supporting children’s wellbeing.
While class teachers work hard to support their pupils’ social and emotional needs, the addition of specialist guidance teachers would free up their time to focus on teaching and learning. With guidance teachers in place, pupils would receive targeted support for their mental health, behaviour, and social skills needs. Parents and carers would also be more involved in their children’s education, creating a more collaborative and supportive approach to learning. Ultimately, the introduction of guidance teachers in primary schools would benefit all pupils, enabling them to achieve their full potential.