2.9.1. General Overview

“Psycho-Medisch-Sociale Centra”(guidance centres) (PMS) as such came into legal existence mainly in the outline Law dated 1st April 1960 and the Royal Decree dated 13th August 1962. However, a number of organisations existed since the beginning of the century, created on the initiative of Christiaens and Decroly, to provide professional career guidance. Others focused rather on the choice of studies.In their current overall organisation PMS centres are independent of schools – although this may be less the case in specialised centres – but work in close collaboration with both schools and families. Over the years the PMS Centre has become a partner of the school system from which the child, adolescent, family and school, as well as the social partners (government, employers, employees) and the economic world seem to expect solutions to the most varied and occasionally highly complex problems; its mission, as it is defined, is certainly wide-ranging: to provide the pupil and the educational team involved with the best possible conditions for development and to intervene, on request or at their own initiative in psychological, medical and social areas and in the area of educational psychology.The PMS Centres are also involved in some aspects of health care. This comprises prevention with regard to sensory and neuro-motor problems (from pre-school school onwards), dealing with pupils who have fallen behind, educational and social adaptation problems, preventive health checks and proposed remedies to be followed by supervision. All this has to be done in collaboration with the school medical supervision (Law dated 21st March 1964).Within the Centres belonging to the Gemeenschapsonderwijs (Community or official education) this task is being structurally integrated. For the grant-aided official and grant-aided free education network the structural integration is not yet realised. For those schools independent centres for “Medisch Schooltoezicht” (health supervision in schools) (MST)) are operational. In many cases co-operation is being aimed at. Policy initiatives to support those co-operative tendencies are being prepared.In 1996 the Minister of Education launched a strategy to reorganise the sector of school guidance as a whole and for all educational networks of school. He proposes to create new “Centra voor Leerlingbegeleiding” (centres for guidance of pupils) (CLB) integrating all functions outlined above.

2.9.2. ‘Psycho-Medisch-Sociale Centrum’ (guidance centre) (PMS)

Sections [2.9.2] and [2.9.3] can not be understood properly without the remarks under [2.9.1] in mind, especially as far as the network related structures are concerned.

2.9.2.1. Main Tasks

The work of the PMS Centres is built up around four main components:- the pupil who requires support, guidance, supervision and advice outside of the school as such;- the family, sometimes at a loss when faced with the complexity of the educational world and society in general;- the school which may be cut off from socio-cultural elements in the population;- the world of business, and society in general, which deliberately ignores the school or vice versa.The considerable involvement of PMS Centres in research into educational methods suitable for certain categories of pupils (in special, vocational and multicultural education) and the pedagogical innovations in basic and secondary education which have often been made possible due to the dynamic efforts of mixed teams (composed of teaching staff and PMS centres) should be emphasised.From pre-school school up to the threshold of higher education PMS Centres gather, analyse and progressively assess psycho-medico-social data which are regularly brought up to date and confronted with the pupil, the observations of the class board, the family and all other environments with which the pupil comes into contact.Recently the “Vlaamse Onderwijsraad” (Flemish Education Council) (VLOR) formulated some proposals to reorganise task and role of these PMS-Centres. It was advising to focus their task on three main areas:- supporting the process of educational and vocational choice;- counselling for pupils with learning difficulties;- counselling for pupils with socio-emotional problems.All this tasks have to carried out structurally independent from the school but in close collaboration with the school and the parents.The political debate on the future of these centres, however, is still going on. New legislation has not yet been presented by the Authorities. See also [2.12] for related information.

2.9.2.2. Staff

In order to fulfil this mission, Psycho-Medico-Social Centres can rely on teams carrying out their work in teams consisting of three different expertises:- an advisor (university-trained psychologist or psychological educationalist);- a social worker or psychological assistant (with higher education training);- a member of medical and paramedical staff (a nurse);- administrative staff.A Royal Decree of 1986 introduced a rationalisation of PMS Centres and set new staffing norms. The new calculation procedure and the resulting movement of staff has considerably affected the continuity of the multidisciplinary teams’ work.In Community network related Centres activities and staff described in section [2.9.3] are integrated within the PMS Centres.