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13 October 2015

Article in JMB Magazine - In Focus

The Partial Restoration of Provision for Guidance and Counselling – Deciding on Prioritie.

Among the most important elements underpinning an effective guidance counselling programme in school are the trust
and communication that exist between the principal and the guidance counsellor. While the main concern must, of course, be the needs of the students, the priorities attached to the various roles of the guidance counsellor will vary from school to school. The priorities must flow from the whole-school Guidance Plan which, ultimately should be owned and become the responsibility of the whole school community. A key question therefore is ‘where is our policy and does everyone know what it sets-out?’ If it needs to be drafted, re-drafted, shared or reviewed by the Board of Management, now is the time!

The qualified guidance counsellor brings a particular set of qualities and skills which enhance student (and often, adult) wellbeing. A key message from the research literature is that personal problems cannot be separated from career concerns.  Thus while the presenting issue may be one of choosing an educational course or a vocational path, the guidance counsellor approach must encompass the personal/social as well as the educational/vocational needs of the student. One-to-one guidance counselling – the main casualty of the Budget cuts in recent years represents an absolute priority in our efforts to provide a genuinely holistic model of student support.

A key competence of the guidance counsellor must be their ability to develop and sustain a counselling relationship with the student, to gain his/her confidence in order to promote their wellbeing and thus to formulate a personal plan within their current educational context. The promotion of positive mental health is ultimately a key goal and your counsellor is uniquely placed to support this aim. Guidance counsellors employ their range of competencies in assisting students identify the strengths interests, aptitudes, attitudes, values, abilities, skills and personality factors which influence their career decisions and, ultimately, to help them begin to meet the challenges of the dynamic world of work.

Guidance counsellors are professionally qualified at post-graduate level and have a vital role in ensuring that accurate assessment (such as psychometric testing), valid information and achievable strategies are put in place to support decisions around students’ learning styles, and about the educational, curricular and career choices that best match these strategies.

Guidance counsellors are available for consultation with parents and guardians of students to assist in the family component of the educational and career decision making processes.

Guidance counsellors have up-to-date knowledge of the National Qualifications Framework and all routes to Further and Higher Education, advising on applications to CAO, PLCs, FETAC, SOLAS, DARE, HEAR, RACE, SUSI, UCAS, Sport and Academic Scholarships, HPAT, BMAT, SAT, CAT, SEC and SEN requirements, as well as sourcing international academic qualifications, apprecentiships, training programmes their equivalences and pathways. The aim is always to reduce the complexity of information and yet adhere to the various compliance demands to ensure successful outcomes.
Guidance counsellors also provide a key support and advice service to students and parents/guardians at various transitions in their education lives; primary to secondary, junior cycle to senior, transition year, LCA, LCVP,and second level to third level. They carry out Drumcondra, DRT and WRAT testing, DATS for Guidance and Career Inventory Tests and will be specifically upskilled by the JCT team to play a key role in the new junior cycle Wellbeing Programme.

Guidance counsellors are also important advocates for students, making representations to a wide range of referral agencies such as HSE, CAMS, NEPS, TUSLA etc. In identifying, encouraging and supporting students who are marginalised or at risk in our school community Guidance Counsellors play an essential role in addressing mental health issues and in supporting school retention and completion programmes. Since the cutbacks in the guidance counselling service in 2012, many principals have had to manage and support students in crisis, adding to the pressure on school management. This enhancement represents an opportunity to resolve this issue. The whole-school conversation on the deployment of the still-insufficient but nonetheless welcome hours for guidance and counselling will therefore be one of the most important discussions principals will have this year.