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Students' embarking on their career journey – Is Féidir linn

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Guidance Counselling

Posted by Francis O' Toole on November 8, 2012

Where are we now within our Schools? It is now becoming evident that the standard and the extent of the guidance service across schools is extremely varied,  uneven and disjointed in terms of quality of provision. In some schools the guidance counsellor is back teaching fulltime; a professional service delivery is offered to a minority; to some in name but not in quality of delivery; and to others, not at all. Guidance Counsellors are certainly finding that they can’t see students urgently when they need to be seen because of other teaching duties in the school.

Members are experiencing huge pressure to fulfil their role because of the reduced hours available for the one to one work.  There is a huge concern that some students in need of one to one counselling will be overlooked with potentially very serious consequences.

Initial results of an audit recently completed by the ICG; show that 76% of respondents have had a reduction in their allocated hours for Guidance counselling. 72% report an increase in class contact time for guidance and a significant reduction in their time for Social Personal and Educational Counselling at one to one level. A detailed study is currently beingundertaken by the Institute of Guidance Counsellors and it hopes to publish the results shortly.

While many principals seem to have been very supportive, it seems that some principals either are not aware of what constitutes a guidance service, as delivered by a professional guidance counsellor, or understanding the role, have chosen,  to ignore it ; the latter, in order to maximise curricular provision.  Timetabling of guidance counsellors for academic subject teaching and SPHE delivery is blocking access by students and their parents/guardians to a professional guidance service.

It is unrealistic to expect that a professional service  can be delivered, even in those schools where the guidance practitioner is given some ‘guidance hours’ to meet students on a ‘one to one’ , in those schools where the guidance counsellor now finds her/himself back in the classroom. Therefore what we see is very uneven and disjointed service provided for  within the general allocation under the DES requirement.

It is now becoming evident at local level, from the timetables of some guidance counsellors, that there is a lack of awareness of the demands of the role in providing, even a limited service. This is leading to burn out among practitioners. There is huge need for self-management and self-care among guidance counsellors, as well as limiting provision to what is reasonably deliverable.

Principals were asked to manage guidance provision from within the school’s general allocation. Some schools have made huge efforts to continue to provide a comprehensive service, in others; principals have referred to the JMB framework to justify using the guidance counsellor for subject provision and SPHE delivery. These despite the DES own assertion posted on the NCGE website as recently as last February, that it is inappropriate and unacceptable that the guidance counsellor deliver the whole of the SPHE programme to any one year.

Curricular guidance provision, i.e., the ‘whole school guidance’ as per the DES model, does not equate to a guidance service as delivered by a professional guidance counsellor. In many instances, where the guidance counsellors is timetabled for group guidance sessions, the size of these

groups, in some instances with over thirty students, results in a denigrating misuse of the professional service, and in the practitioner finding themselves in a disciplinary or controlling relationship with students. This is undermining of the guidance counsellors professional role.

The allocation to be made for the professional service of the guidance counsellor from within the general allocation needs to be clearly specified to schools, based on the student enrolment for that school Many guidance counsellors, who are employed on a part time basis, are particularly vulnerable, and are unable to demand parity of resources with their subject teachers in relation to time allocation for the guidance service.

It is only now, nearly two months into the school year that the implications of the removal of the allocation are beginning to be recognised by students and their parents.

There are those who consider that the move to cut the guidance counselling service in our schools shows a lack of compassion and humanity on the one hand and a gap in understanding of the real issues with which our students are grappling on a daily basis.

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One Response to “Guidance Counselling”

  1. catherine mccarthy said

    Thanks for posting the piece about g.counsellors.After a long day at work..counselling etc and trying to fit everything i i was glad to read it.

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