Secondary schools lacking in mental health supports - guidance counsellors

Secondary schools lacking in mental health supports - guidance counsellors
A school classroom set up for the leaving and junior certificate state examinations. Picture: Denis Minihane.

The Institute of Guidance Counsellors has today said that many Irish schools lack adequate mental health supports, ahead of the new academic year.

A survey of parents and students has found 75% of respondents feel the Covid-19 crisis has had an impact on their wellbeing, amid the uncertainty surrounding safely attending schools in person, the possibility of learning online and conducting State exams.

70% of respondents said that more mental health resources are required to tackle the ongoing situation, including allocated time with guidance counsellors.

Speaking to radio, Beatrice Dooley, President of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors, says students could be waiting days or weeks for access to this service at some schools.

"The problem is, where are they going to go? Because guidance counsellors can only deal with one student at a time.

"Our recent survey said out of 330 schools, in 30 schools, that's 10.6% of schools, guidance counsellors are not practicing. That means they're timetabled to teach non-guidance subjects.

"In 45 schools, they're using unqualified staff to provide guidance counselling."

The Minister for Education, Fianna Fáil's Norma Foley, has been called by a number of opposition parties to address the question of returning to school in the new academic year.

Gary Gannon TD, the Social Democrats' spokesperson on Education, to urgently address the Dáil and provide details of the Government’s plans for reopening schools in five weeks’ time.

“Yesterday I attended a meeting between Minister Foley and Opposition spokespeople for Education. Following the meeting, a press statement was released by her department stating we were briefed on multiple aspects relating to calculated grades and the reopening of schools.

“With utmost respect to the Minister, nothing of the sort took place. With an extremely short time until schools are due to reopen and the Dáil recess approaching next week, it is urgent that the Minister comes in to provide clarity on schools reopening. Critically, this should include confirmation of a funding package."

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