Calls for ‘inequitable’ guidance counselling cuts to be reversed

Report showing working class students depend on in-school advice ‘strengthens argument’

Surveys by the institute and the Teachers’ Union of Ireland showed ‘one-to-one’ guidance counselling in schools was down 59 per cent. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Surveys by the institute and the Teachers’ Union of Ireland showed ‘one-to-one’ guidance counselling in schools was down 59 per cent. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

Calls have been made for the reversal of cuts in guidance counselling following the publication of an ESRI report showing that the move disproportionately affects working-class schools.

Betty McLaughlin, president of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors, said it welcomed that fact that young people valued the detailed information offered by its members, “highlighting in particular the importance of one-to-one sessions”.

“We also acknowledge the report findings that guidance counsellors are a particularly strong source of support for young people from working class backgrounds.”

She added: “In the light of the report findings which are based on students who had a guidance service while in school, we are alarmed at the implications of this report given that there is no longer any ex-quota allocation for guidance counselling hours in Second level schools and colleges of Further Education.”

Separate surveys by the institute and the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) in January and April this year showed “one-to-one” guidance counselling in schools was down 59 per cent.

“The loss of guidance counselling services particularly, in working class schools where parental contributions and school fees are not available to replace the funding removed for guidance counselling by the State have left a disjointed and inequitable access to appropriate guidance for all our students in second level and colleges of further education,” Ms Mc Laughlin said.

TUI president Gerry Quinn also called for the restoration of posts “as a matter of urgency”, saying “it is clear that the most vulnerable have been targeted by this cut in provision”.

He noted the report also endorsed alternative post-school pathways to higher education, which now was the responsibility Solas.

As the main union representing practitioners of further education, he said it was “completely unacceptable” the TUI was not represented on the board of the training agency that replaced Fás.

Fianna Fáil education spokesman Charlie McConalogue, who has previously raised the issue of guidance counsellors cuts in the Dáil, said Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan should take a “more constructive approach” than her predecessor Ruairi Quinn.

However, “sadly, it appears to be ‘business as usual’ in the department, and I was told that there was no scope for reversing this destructive measure”.

He said: “From the moment these cuts were announced, my party warned of the effect they would have and pointed out that they would hurt most those who are in most need of support. Successive governments have made real progress on tackling educational disadvantage and increasing participation at third level.

“By contrast, this Government is making regressive decisions that are undermining all that work.”

“It is hard to believe that the Government will continue to ignore the problem following the publication of this new report and my hope is that now the Minister has been presented with evidence that her policy is actively holding back children from disadvantaged backgrounds, that she might finally be forced to rethink.”