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15 October 2015

PRESS RELEASE – IGC - Budget 2015

The Institute of Guidance Counsellors President, Betty McLaughlin, welcomes the reinstatement in Budget 2016 of 300 guidance counselling jobs by Minister Jan O’Sullivan and Minister Damien English, and is delighted that their meetings with the Ministers and the Institute’s relentless campaign for restoration has reached part-fruition. 

While this is a very positive move forward for guidance counsellors, it is but a first step towards the IGC’s overall objective of the full restoration of the dedicated fit-for-purpose guidance counselling service in all second level schools, colleges of further education and adult education in the very near future.  We look forward to the Circular from the Department of Education and Skills, that will be issued to all schools in the coming Spring, starting the process of restoring the guidance counselling service.  We will continue to work diligently toward a full restoration, and the protection of the profession, so as to provide guidance counselling to all students, regardless of their socio-economic status.  The IGC believes that it is only when access to a fully-restored dedicated guidance counselling service is established as a basic human right that all students can fulfil their personal, educational and vocational potential. 

This part-restoration is bouncing off the removal of the dedicated service in 2012, a removal that decimated the service and with it equality of opportunity, equality of access and progress in education and employment was removed from the Irish education system for all students, particularly the most vulnerable.  The guidance counsellor was placed in the classroom by school principals in order to fill teaching requirements, but was still expected to part-fulfil, and in some cases not at all, the remit of their role as guidance counsellor. 

At present, guidance counsellors are struggling and stressed in trying to meet even the basic needs of their students.  There was a cut of 24% to the service overall, and a 59% reduction in one-to-one counselling resulting in 200 schools left with no one-to-one counselling at all.  These cuts were deeper in FES schools, and even more deeply felt in DEIS schools.  The impact of the cuts has led to even greater educational inequalities and the further neglect of vulnerable students, immigrants, and those with special needs.  

Over the past 4 years, thousands of second-level students have had to go it alone when filling in CAO choices.  While middle-class students were able to rely on help from parents, family and friends, students from less well-off backgrounds and immigrants, who relied heavily on the guidance counsellor for help, lost out.  This was borne out strong 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. 

All of this damage is not fixed overnight; nor with a part-restoration of guidance counselling jobs.  There is a long road ahead for guidance counsellors to repair the damage done, and to rebuild a fit-for-purpose dedicated service for all.  A fit-for-purpose dedicated guidance counselling service is at the heart of the education team, and plays an integral role in the academic, career, and personal social development of all students.  It is the guidance counsellor who helps and encourages students to look at the relationship between their strengths and abilities, education, and world of work, as well as with the development of their interpersonal skills to respect themselves and others.  It is the guidance counsellor who supports each individual student to manage their mental health and maximize their ability to learn, explore career and college options, and make informed decisions regarding their post-second level choices so as to complete their future career goals. 

The guidance counsellor’s specialist role is crucial to promoting educational progression, employability and adaptability by educating and supporting people to make these career decisions within education, entering the labour market and future progression within it.  Guidance accordingly needs to be accessible not just to school-leavers and the unemployed, but to everyone throughout their lives.  Our journey continues and we will be campaigning relentlessly until we achieve a full restoration of this vital dedicated service. 

Betty McLaughlin,

President,

Institute of Guidance Counsellors

14th October, 2015