Saturday 18 November 2017

Junior Cert counselling hit by cuts

College student (Stock photo)
College student (Stock photo)
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Crucial guidance for Junior Cycle students is one of the biggest casualties of the cuts in counselling services in schools in recent years.

A new survey shows that four in 10 principals (40pc) have reduced the time allocated for pre-Junior Cert students in order to give as much time as possible to fifth and sixth years.

Asked if they had more resources what would their priority for counsellors be, almost half (46pc) said they would like to be in a position to offer more one-to-one sessions at Junior Cycle level.

Guidance counsellors assist students in making subject choices and future career pathways, but they also have the expertise to help pupils to deal with emotional and psychological difficulties.

They work with full classes and also offer one-to-one meetings, and it is from the latter that students say they derive the most benefit.

The impact of the cuts to the service, implemented in September 2012, is further underlined in a survey conducted for the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI).

It echoes the findings of previous research, and shows that in 57pc of second-level schools, one-to-one counselling has been the main victim, followed by the 40pc of schools that have reduced their focus on Junior Cycle students.

While guidance and counselling is crucial for Leaving Cert students, it is equally important from early on in Junior Cycle because decisions about subject choices, and whether students pursue study at higher or lower level, is critical to what they do in the Leaving Cert. That, in turn, can determine their post-school options.

Lack of access to guidance services has a disproportionate effect on students from disadvantaged backgrounds because they are more likely to rely on the school for advice on study and career routes.

Even before the cuts of 2012, the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) recommended that Junior Cycle students receive more guidance generally, and more one-to-one counselling.

ASTI General Secretary Pat King said guidance counselling was absolutely vital in any society-wide approach to sustaining youth well-being.

"There is growing evidence that the decision to end the ex-quota status of guidance counsellors in our schools is having a major deleterious effect on schools' capacity to support young people's well-being.

"It is clear that school principals want a guidance counselling service that meets both the educational and developmental needs of young people. All students must have access to counselling, advice on study skills and self-organisation, and vocational guidance," he said.

Irish Independent

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