History of the SGA

In 1988, the discussion began to form a national forum for all those concerned with guidance. Those invested in the debate comprised the old Scottish Association of Guidance Teachers, and then, as now, there was a concern that by having the word “teachers” in the title of the organisation, they were excluding people who were invested in supporting children. The first step was the publication of a newsletter. Their aims were clear, and indeed 31 years later not much has changed : “to promote areas for in-service training in guidance; to provide a forum for the exchange of ideas and dissemination of good practice in guidance; to seek to improve the resources for guidance and the working conditions for those involved in guidance; to improve contact and cooperation between guidance staff and all others involved in the care of young people.” This is a short look at the history of the SGA, and the issues which have impacted on the young people in our society over the last three decades.

The first SGA Conference was held in March 1989. The title was “A counselling approach to social education” and was supported by Margaret Jarvie of Moray House. Notable areas for discussion that year were also: dealing with child abuse, special education units, youth strategy, AIDS and computers.

Newsletters appeared each term, and aimed to link together professionals from across the country. Ideas for resources, current educational policy and news of members was circulated to a growing readership. An early article from Terry Ashton, Adviser in Guidance for the Grampian Region, summed up what was being felt at the time and still resonates today “Do you, like me, sometimes get rather frustrated when other people cannot appreciate the importance of guidance within the educational process? Do you, like me sometimes feel that you are getting nowhere fast at advancing the cause of guidance? Do you, like me, sometimes feel like giving up when you realise the gap between what guidance could be like and the realities of education today?” He goes on to say that he feels that the Scottish Guidance Association has a potentially crucial role in the further progress of guidance and raising the profile of current issues. Terry is still strongly associated with the SGA, and attends the Workshop Days and Conferences: his wisdom and support have been inspiring, and hopefully, he feels that we have raised the profile with our close links to parliamentary working groups and links to Education Scotland. Currently, we have members sitting on Governmental Working Groups for GIRFEC, SHINE and PSE.


By the early 1990s, one the most important issues being discussed at Conference days was the impact of stress- 37 million working days were being lost each year due to stress (interestingly this is now 15.4 million) and the focus was on adolescent stress and also stress within the profession. The newsletters warned that mental health problems were the fastest growing form of illness, and that a growth in support for young people was of paramount importance.


The introduction of integrated computer-based entry systems for record keeping entered into the fray at this time. “SCAMP’ coordinated admissions, reporting, registration, timetabling and SCOTVEC modules to name but a few. As it is now, the discussion was around whether it was fit for purpose, and really delivered what was needed by the professionals using it. The verdict seemed to be that much of the problem lay with lack of training and understanding of computing, rather than the package on offer.

Collegiate approaches to primary and secondary guidance teaching was also a concern with the introduction of 5-14. Until 5-14 was introduced, there was no formal P.S.E. or Guidance in primary schools. Associate School Groups were formed, and methodology and programmes were discussed, with Grampian Region leading the way.


By the mid 1990s Terry Ashton was raising the question “will we ever get first level guidance to work?” Of primary concern, was the conscripting of teachers into the role, and that many felt there was also an expectation to teach Personal and Social Education (PSE). Terry felt that there couldn’t be a national "one size fits all" approach, and that individual schools had to adapt the model of guidance to suit them.


Further curriculum developments included “Higher Still”. The SGA submitted their concerns to the Government on the implementation of the Personal and Social Education document. Worries included how the outcomes would be measured, which staff would be expected to teach it and as it was being assessed at a Higher level, which schools would promote this qualification over traditional subjects as such a Science or a Modern Language. The new curriculum proved to be an ongoing issue, with much of the debate from 1996-1998 looking at the impact on pupils and the associated concerns and increased workload of the profession.


By the start of the new millennium, the then president Alex Edwardson, brought the focus round to the significant issues facing the profession as we approached a new century. The complexity of the job, the competing pressures of personal, curricular and vocational areas, time allocation and management, increased expectations of managerial effectiveness in self- evaluation and development planning and the wider question of whether there should be full time Guidance/ PSE teachers. Alex reflected that “whatever emerges from current discussion of basic contracts, extended contracts and professional leadership roles, the key functions of guidance will remain necessary and the test of the system will be how well these functions are fulfilled.


The 2000s raised the questions of employability of our young people, supporting them to be a workforce fit for a rapidly changing environment. Solution focussed approaches to resolving conflict were a focus, as was encouraging planning for success.


Finally, many workshops and newsletters focused on how we can look after ourselves. Perhaps this is an appropriate point to stop this early history of the SGA and focus on the words of Elaine Ross Manley from the 2004 newsletter who suggested that we :

  • Accentuate the positive
  • Associate with positive, affirming people
  • Do one positive thing every day
  • If something doesn’t work…try something else!
  • Try to see every experience as a learning opportunity
  • Stay focussed.

Many thanks to Fiona Casey (Former SGA Vice-President) & Alex Edwardson (SGA Past President) for producing this.