Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan has “no plans” to reintroduce funding for school guidance counselling.
She told the Dáil that if “economic recovery continues, I hope the Government will be in a position to improve the standard staffing allocation to schools.
“However, I believe that it is desirable to give schools some discretion on how to use these increased resources.”
Ms O’ Sullivan was responding to Fianna Fáil education spokesman Charlie McConalogue, who asked if she would provide funding for properly qualified guidance counsellors.
He said the guidance hours funding was “entirely removed” in the budget two years ago even through schools remain obliged to provide the service. “It is high time that this decision was reversed,” he said.
Ms O’Sullivan said that she had “no plans at the moment to reintroduce a separate allocation of resources hours to schools for guidance counselling”.
She said the principal and school leaders had the best knowledge and experience to determine how exactly guidance resources and teaching resources should be allocated.
But Mr McConalogue said the whole point was that by removing the resources, “the Minister has removed the discretion of schools to ensure that guidance hours are provided”.
She had left the responsibility to the schools so that to provide the service they had to cut back teaching in other areas, he said and pointed to a survey by the Institute of Guidance Counsellors which found a reduction of up to 70 per cent in one-to-one time between a guidance counsellor and students which had been provided previously.
Ms O’Sullivan said the “decisions made in recent years were not easy. Sometimes it was a case of deciding whether to reduce the overall allocation to schools or take specific measures”.
The obligation remained on schools to provide guidance, she said. “ As the economy improves, and it is improving, I will examine a range of areas where I believe we can begin to approve resources for schools.”
In the budget there was the first increase in funding for education for many years and “we will be working to ensure this continues,” she said.