Minister needs review cuts to school guidance counsellors – Deputy O’Brien
Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Jonathan O’Brien, TD, has urged the government to reverse its decision not to exclude school guidance counsellors from the teacher quota allocation.
Deputy O’Brien raised the matter with Education Minister Ruairí Quinn during today’s round of oral Parliamentary Questions when he urged the minister to carefully consider the implications for teachers and pupils who have been left to cope without guidance counsellors.
“I met recently with a school guidance counsellor who works in a large school in County Louth and he was close to despair because of the cuts that have arisen from the loss of the ex-quota allocation in guidance counsellors made during last year’s budget. He firmly believes that the lives of vulnerable children at his and other schools across this State have been placed at considerable risk as a result of this cut to what is an essential service.
“It is clear that the decision to suppress the guidance and counselling provision was a way of increasing the pupil teacher ratio by stealth and I believe Minister Quinn needs to undertake a review of how this has impacted on children.
“Schools have had to make very difficult choices when deciding whether to retain their guidance counsellor as this can mean dropping a subject from the school timetable or having to reallocate other teaching duties to their guidance counsellor resulting in the loss of this important post that is essential to how a school functions.
“I believe the decision to end the ex-quota allocation has had serious and far reaching implications, particularly for those at risk pupils who in the past had the option of confiding in a guidance counsellor. The implications for school children who in the past would have benefitted from the pastoral care, early intervention and support in times of crisis provided by a school guidance counsellor are difficult to quantify but need to be carefully examined.
“We only have to remind ourselves of the recent very sad cases where teenagers have taken their own lives as a result of bullying. In these and other cases early intervention to prevent a problem escalating is essential.
“I firmly believe we need to re-look at the impact of losing guidance counsellors has had on the mental well-being of children. Additionally, we need to examine the impact this decision has had on career guidance and as we approach December’s budget Minister Quinn should reassess this decision with a view to reversing it in order to ensure schools are able to retain these essential posts.”
For ORAL answer on Tuesday, 20th November, 2012.
Reference Number: 51338/12, 51304/12
Minister Ruairí Quinn
I propose to take questions 113 and 119 together.
The day to day management of how teaching resources are used in schools is done at local school level. It is established policy that guidance is a whole school activity and under existing arrangements each school develops a school guidance plan as a means of supporting the needs of its students. I am confident schools will act in the best interest of students.
I acknowledge that the reduction in resources to second level schools is challenging for schools and this is borne out by the survey undertaken by the JMB. However, the budget measure that requires schools to manage the provision of guidance from within their standard staffing allocation, the alternative to which was to make an adjustment to the standard staffing schedule, must be seen in the context of our very difficult budgetary constraints. It is also worth pointing out that, as part of last years budgetary measures, my Department helped shelter the impact for DEIS post-primary schools by improving their standard staffing allocations.