In order to gain some idea of the background to the founding of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors in 1976 it may be helpful to situate it in the context of the development of the guidance and counselling service in Ireland at that time.
The County Dublin VEC developed a guidance system for their schools in 1960 and they were really the pioneers of the guidance service. They were also instrumental in developing the first course to train career guidance teachers in University College Dublin in 1964.
The Department of Education’s Psychological Service, particularly Torlach O'Conchubhair and Tony O'Gormain made a significant contribution to the founding of a guidance and counselling service in schools as illustrated in articles that appeared in publications such as Oideas in 1969. These articles give us an insight into Department plans at that time. It was obvious that it was guidance in its broadest terms that they had in mind. They did not foresee a specialist in the area of guidance and counselling. They envisaged a whole school approach to guidance, very much along the lines of the thinking today. In fact it is interesting to compare the Department of Education’s views of the late 1960s with the Guidelines for Second Level Schools on the implications of Section 9(c) of the Education Act 1998, relating to students access to appropriate guidance.
The Department of Education also felt that there should be a close link with the Department of Labour, who were charged with the provision of careers’ literature.
A service was set up in the early 70s through the National Manpower Service and this service was continued by ANCO and is now the responsibility of FAS - The National Training and Employment Authority.
In order to provide a service to schools, the Department of Education initiated its own training programme in 1968. This was a summer programme with in-service and it concentrated on areas such as: preparation for work, guidance techniques and how to involve other members of staff, parents and the wider community in preparing young people for adult life. The emphasis was on career guidance. The Department of Education training courses had trained 120 people in guidance work by 1971.
The Association of Guidance Teachers was founded to represent those working in the field of guidance. This Association enjoyed a high profile, as the media became interested in the work of the Guidance Teacher. Conferences addressed guidance issues, which attracted large audiences from around the country.
The University College Dublin course (Diploma in Careers Guidance) was producing graduates with a greater emphasis on the counselling aspect of guidance, with the subjects peculiar to teacher training specifically included in the course – organisation of education, principles of education, educational psychology and developmental psychology. Graduates of this course were represented by the Institute of Vocational Guidance and Counselling of Ireland.
In 1969, the Institute of Vocational Guidance and Counselling of Ireland published a booklet entitled “The Case for Proper Guidance”. This booklet was of great interest to guidance counsellors as it outlined the various areas of guidance and counselling and how they should be applied in the school situation. It is interesting to note how graduates of this course envisaged the service:
“for the young person, a realistic self-concept, self-determined yet responsible choices at all stages as well as at career stage, a well adjusted adult who finds his maximum satisfaction in that way of life and personal satisfaction with life as a whole” (The Case for Proper Guidance, p12)
It also situates guidance and counselling in its international standing at that time.
It was a cause of real concern that so many graduates experienced obstacles to their employment and recognition in the workplace.
The big break through for guidance and counselling came in 1972 when the Department of Education made provision for vocational, educational and personal guidance in all second-level schools. This allowed all schools in excess of 250 pupils to employ a Guidance Counsellor “ex quota”.
This was a great boost to the fledgling service and it lead to more guidance training programmes such as Mater Dei in 1973 and University College Cork in 1981.
What was significant about these new courses was that entry was open to graduates of all disciplines. It also accepted non-graduates which made it easier for a better mix of professions entering the guidance field. What was developing here was a common training ground which qualified graduates for emerging posts in the guidance service.
Many of the graduates of these courses went on to play management roles in schools as Principals, in the development of guidance services in third-level colleges and even as a Minister for Education!.
The Institute of Guidance Counsellors was founded in 1976. This brought all the associations and organisations into the one organisation. The amalgamation of the various organisations representing those working in the field of guidance went very smoothly and soon gained widespread support. This was seen as a very important development at this time as it ensured that there was one voice articulating the concerns and needs of the guidance counsellor.
The Institute of Guidance Counsellors became firmly established countrywide through the work of its local branches and members were kept up to date with developments in the field of guidance and counselling, through in-service initiatives, and well organised Annual General Meetings.
All of these exciting developments were to come to a halt when in 1983 the circular M3 1/83 stated that schools under 500 students had to provide a Guidance Counsellor from within their quota, the ex-quota post for Guidance Counsellors was abandoned and the pupil teacher ratio was increased from 19:1 to 20:1
When the history of the part the Institute of Guidance Counsellors played in keeping the service alive after this 1983 body blow is written, it must give due credit to its professional approach and the dedicated work of Guidance Counsellors who gave a first class service in their schools, often against the odds.