School guidance counsellors 'essential cog', says watchdog
CHILDREN'S Ombudsman Emily Logan (right) has spoken out against cuts to the guidance counselling service in schools.
She said guidance counsellors were an "essential cog" in the education wheel and their role must be protected.
Ms Logan was speaking at the annual conference of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors (IGC), which was dominated by reductions to their service.
The cuts mean that since September, guidance and counselling services have to be covered from within the school's general allocation of teaching time, rather than having extra hours for it.
It means guidance counsellors are spending more time in classrooms teaching their subjects, resulting in a 50pc drop in one-to-one counselling for students, and a 21pc reduction in hours spent on guidance and counselling services. But Ms Logan said guidance counsellors offered a specialist, distinct and important support that should not be subsumed into ordinary teaching functions.
"It is vital, in my view, that your role is protected as a discrete one within the school and other systems in which you work," she said.
IGC president Gerry Flynn called on school managers and parents to resist attempts by the State to "airbrush counselling services out of schools".
He said there were signs the drop in one-to-one counselling for students was declining below the 50pc cut already witnessed.
"Following last year's cuts, for every student who receives essential one-to-one counselling there is now another outside the door who must go without."
Meanwhile, school managers have warned that education cuts are making it impossible for second-level schools to cope with all the changes, including literacy and numeracy, bullying and Junior Cycle reform. But overburdened principals say they cannot handle it all unless there is a realistic review of middle management structures in schools.
Malachy Molloy, president of the Association of Community and Comprehensive Schools (ACCS), said principals had borne the brunt of the withdrawal of financial resources.
The ACCS represents 93 schools and Mr Molloy said they had lost, on average, almost four assistant principal posts and three special duties teachers.