Career Guidance for students in secondary schools. This means that youngsters seeking guidance on subjects that are critical to their future prospects are relying on persons who lack the essential competence.
Career Guidance for students in secondary schools
Every week, one in every six (17%) schools employs unqualified individuals for guidance counselling.
This is up from 12 percent when the cuts were implemented four years ago, and a new assessment raises alarm about the “significant” number presently participating.
Following an independent audit conducted on behalf of the Institute of Assistance Counsellors, an increasing class disparity in the availability of career guidance & personal counselling to students is also revealed (IGC).
Fee-paying schools have more than compensated for the cuts by acquiring professional competence for their students. On the opposite end of the spectrum, underprivileged neighbourhoods – whose children are most in need of assistance – are experiencing the greatest loss of service.
“There is a socio-economic hierarchy in the allocation of hours for guidance counselling, with those who can afford to pay for it receiving the greatest benefit,” IGC president Betty McLaughlin cautioned.
The findings were revealed in a recent survey of more than half (52%) of the country’s second-level schools and colleges of further education. It is the fourth such audit examining the impact of the September 2012 loss of the ring-fenced provision for guidance counselling.
As a result of that legislation, principals are required to provide guidance and counselling throughout their usual classroom hours. This has resulted in a fragmented service, with just a few schools hiring no guidance counsellor.
Although the vast majority of schools continue to employ licenced guidance counsellors, many of them are diverted to teach for part or all of the working week to fill other vacancies.
Overall, there has been a 28 percent decrease in the number of hours that schools devote to the programme, which includes both career counselling and counselling for students who need help with personal concerns.
However, schools participating in the Department of Education’s DEIS scheme for disadvantaged communities – one in every four second-level schools – report a higher-than-average cut of 33 percent.
Meanwhile, fee-paying institutions provide 1.9 percent more hours because they can afford it.
Almost one-quarter (22%) of fee-paying institutions purchase guidance and counselling services privately.
Most importantly, time spent on one-on-one meetings with students has decreased by 54%. This is a reduction from an average of 12 hours per week spent on this task by a counsellor in 2012 to fewer than six hours presently.
This is an improvement over the 59 percent drop reported in the first year of the cuts, as schools worked to prioritise this component of the service.
Ms McLaughlin, on the other hand, called the decrease in one-on-one counselling “catastrophic.”
There is also a rising reliance on outside providers, typically private or retired guidance counsellors or other experts such as therapists or psychologists, or representatives of other organisations.
While this is done with the best of intentions, the report expresses worry about the lack of an overarching quality framework.
“The usage of this practice is high-risk for pupils, and there is a need to address it as soon as possible,” it advises.
Partial restoration of cuts to guidance counselling is scheduled for September, though it is unclear how schools will allocate the additional hours.
The new Government Programme promises more restoration, but no details have been revealed.