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12 March 2016

Guidance Counsellors call for Ring-fenced Guidance Hours for Schools

Guidance Counsellors call for Ring-fenced Guidance Hours for Schools

Over 450 guidance counsellors from second and third level schools and colleges across Ireland have gathered at the University of Limerick for the Annual Conference of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors (IGC), on what is the 40th Anniversary of the foundation of the Institute.

Against a backdrop of celebration, there was an atmosphere of anger and frustration at the lack of recognition by Government of the specialism of Guidance Counsellors and calls have been made for a reversal of the cuts to Guidance Counselling hours in schools made in Budget 2012.

Speaking from the Annual Conference, which will continue over two days, Betty McLaughlin
President IGC said “Guidance counsellors have experienced a 25% overall reduction in practice hours, with 1 in 5 (168) guidance counsellors being removed from the system. Many have had to take on an increase in subject teaching, with 84% of the lost hours used by guidance counsellors for subject teaching (62.6%), teaching SPHE (23.8*), and other teaching (13.6%).  There has been a catastrophic 59% reduction in one-to-one counselling hours that has resulted in 200 schools being left with no one-to-one counselling at all.  
These cuts were deeper in FES schools, and even more deeply felt in DEIS schools, and have led to even greater educational inequalities and the further neglect of vulnerable students, immigrants, and those with special needs.”

Prior to Budget 2012, each school/CFE received an ‘ex-quota’ allocation of hours for the delivery of guidance counselling from the Department of Education and Skills, calculated on the basis of 22 hours of guidance counselling for every 500 pupils.  These ’ex-quota’ hours were ring-fenced for the delivery of guidance counselling and could only be used for this purpose.  These hours were in addition to the quota of hours each school received for teachers to deliver the curriculum.  For the academic year 2011-12, prior to Budget 2012, the mean number of ‘ex-quota’ hours each school/CFE received for the delivery of guidance counselling amounted to approx. 26 (25.85) per school.  Given there were, at the time 758 schools/CFE operating, this equated to approx. 19708 guidance counselling practice hours (which equates to 896 full-time positions) being removed from the Irish education system, from the Academic year 2012-13 forward, with one single drop of the axe.

“At present, guidance counsellors are struggling to meet even the basic needs of their students, and over the past four years, thousands of second-level students have had to go it alone when filling in CAO choices.  This was borne out strongly by the 2015 CAO statistics on the numbers of leaving certificate students applying for entry into third level education this year.   A total of 8.1% of students made no CAO choices at all, compared to 1.3% in 2007; and in the past 9 years there has been a mammoth 649% increase in the number of students making no CAO choices,” said Betty McLaughlin.

The IGC are now calling for a mandatory document be sent from the new Minister for Education and Skills to all schools, colleges of further education, and adult settings requiring school principals to use these hours to ensure that a meaningful guidance counselling service is put in place for all students. The Institute is seeking a full restoration of ring-fenced guidance counsellors’ hours, to the pre-Budget 2012 position, to ensure a dedicated fit-for-purpose guidance counselling service in all second level schools, colleges of further education and adult education throughout the country, in the very near future.