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Guiding adults impartially: a Scottish study

Connelly, Graham and Milburn, Ted and Thomson, Sandy and Edwards, Richard (1999) Guiding adults impartially: a Scottish study. Studies in the Education of Adults, 30 (2). pp. 142-155. ISSN 0266-0830

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Abstract

In Scotland, the development of guidance for adults has been significant in the last few years. A 1992 Inspectorate report concluded that: 'Considerable progress has been made in developing effective arrangements for student guidance' (SOED, 1992: 36). However, the same document also called for improved pre-entry guidance and better course induction, the development of policy statements on guidance, and the commitment of resources to improving facilities, staff training and advocating. Since 1993, the Scottish Office-backed Adult Guidance Initiative-Scotland (AEGIS) has been responsible for raising awareness about good practice in guidance, and has produced policy documents and staff development materials on quality assurance and networking and held a number of national conferences. Researchers at the Scottish Council for Research in Education published four major studies in 1993-4, describing the experiences of adult returners, patterns of progression in post-school education and adult guidance practice. In 1996, the Scottish Office published strategy proposals for adult guidance, to include a telephone helpline (SOEID, 1996). TI1is was followed by an action plan on lifelong learning and guidance, including support for local guidance networks and increased marketing of learning opportunities (SOEID, 1997a and 1997b). Further research reports on the provision of guidance as part of access to higher education in Scotland were also published in 1996 (Blencowe et al, 1996; Blair and Tett, 1996). This article is based on research carried out to investigate the extent to which the principle of impartiality is perceived to be relevant and applicable by guidance practitioners in their work with adults. Guidance professionals have drawn attention to the importance of impartiality as a basic principle governing their practice. Also, the imperative of giving adults information and advice which is impartial and not influenced, for example, by recruitment targets for courses, is stressed in statements of good practice and practitioners' charters. The person-centred counselling approach underpinning these statements and charters tends to be strongly 'non-directive'. Guidance services have developed considerably in the last few years, but there is increasing competition between course providers and this has raised concerns about jeopardising impartiality.