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The Euroguidance Network

October 2010

In this edition:

Guidance for transitions at primary level in Flanders

Belgium holds the EU presidency at the moment and therefore it is interesting to have a closer look at some of the most innovative aspects of guidance in the country. As with so many other issues related to education and training, guidance is under the auspices of the regions and here the focus is on Flanders.

In Flanders children’s school careers are marked by various moments of decision, i.e.:
  • The transition from pre-primary to primary education (at the age of 6). Parents may decide whether their child will go on to primary education at the age of five, six or seven years and receive advice from the school and the pupil guidance centres (CLB - Centrum voor leerlingenbegeiding) to aid their decision.
  • The transition from mainstream to special education (where the same competence regulations apply).
  • The decision to allow a pupil to follow an eighth grade in primary education. In that case a favourable recommendation from the class council is a prerequisite.
  • The transition from primary to secondary education (at the age of 12) where the pupil considers his compulsory choice after the 1st stage. 
The role of the pupil guidance centres

At the start of 2007, the Minister for Education and Training published a green paper on the profile of the pupil guidance centres (CLB - Centra voor leerlingenbegeleiding), which started a debate on the inter-positioning and task demarcation of schools, the CLBs and the pedagogical counselling services.

A CLB is a service pupils, parents, teachers and school managements can call on for information, assistance and guidance. Every school develops a policy plan in conjunction with their CLB to deliver guidance services.

Having reached an agreement in 2008, it was decided that CLBs streamline their services across the umbrella organisations, so that every CLB will be in a position to offer a basic package.

In the operations of CLBs pupils are always centre stage. CLBs offer pupil-oriented services but can also support schools and parents in ensuring pupils’ welfare and the assisting the pupil to strive within the school environment.

The care provided by CLBs is complementary to the one provided by schools in four areas:
  • Learning and studying: reading and spelling, speech, language, dyslexia;
  • The school career: monitoring compulsory education, study-choice guidance, information regarding education and the link to the labour market, certification in special education;
  • Preventive health care: medical check-ups, vaccinations, contagious conditions, nutrition, substance abuse;
  • Socio-emotional development: behavioural problems, social skills, emotional problems.
As guidance is multi-disciplinary, a CLB employs, among others, physicians, social workers, pedagogues, psychologists, psychological assistants, intercultural mediators and nursing staff and each one of them can make a contribution to youngsters’ optimal functioning within the school environment.

Every CLB will offer a basic package consisting of:
  • A demand-oriented pupil-related service, whereby both parents and pupils can avail of  support when emotional problems surface or can gain advice on learning disabilities. There will also be marked support available for pupils switching to part-time educational systems,services to deal with truancy and infant participation. It will be open to parents, pupils and school teams alike.
  • School support, specifically for teachers and school teams. Both teachers and the school teams will be able to seek advice from the CLB on how to deal with specific social or psychological problems which pupils may encounter. In conjunction with the schools, the CLBs will also launch actions on choices of study for pupils going from primary to secondary education, for pupils going from the first stage to the second stage and for pupils who wish to embark on higher education.
  • Medical check-ups and prevention in which the physical development is monitored and safeguarded.
The CLBs are compelled to provide feedback and issue advice within ten working days. They have forty working days to diagnose a pupil and another ten days if a formal report of their diagnosis is warranted.

Within their demand-oriented service provision, CLBs do not only act on questions from parents and pupils but can also provide guidance to schools, if they so request.

Guidance takes place in an atmosphere of trust and dialogue. The initiative usually comes from the enquirer. Guidance can therefore only commence after a pupil or parent has taken the initiative.

If a school requests the CLB to guide a pupil, the Centre will always seek the explicit consent from the parents first (for a pupil under the age of 12) or from the pupil himself (from the age of 12).

One major feature is that the pupil’s interest always comes first.  Guidance by CLB’s is only provided following a request for help as a result of a problem which may impede the learning process or school career now or at a future stage.

In the case of problematic absenteeism, parents and pupils are compelled to avail of CLB guidance, this to prevent early school drop-out or an escalation in compulsory-education problems.

Every pupil deserves special attention but the centre first and foremost intensively guides pupils who are educationally challenged due to their personal characteristics, social background or living conditions. Moreover, special attention is paid to pupils attending special education, pre-primary education and the initial primary-school years.

Jef Vanraepenbusch
Euroguidance Flanders