Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Questions (18)

Dessie Ellis


18. Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the fact that guidance counsellors in many schools are reporting that up to 70% of their case load is now taken up by pastoral care and counselling with higher incidents of self-harm, drug abuse, children suffering from depression, abuse and the effects of family breakdown; and if he will respond to fears that the dismantling of guidance services in schools is putting the lives of young persons at greater risk. [32218/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I have already acknowledged to the House that bringing guidance within quota is challenging for schools. However the alternative was to adjust the PTR staffing allocations. The budget decision sheltered the impact for all DEIS post-primary schools by improving their standard staffing allocations – a fact which is often overlooked in this debate. Guidance is a whole school activity and schools have autonomy on how best to prioritise their available resources to meet the requirements in relation to guidance and the provision of an appropriate range of subjects to students. This operates at local school level. The representative organisations for School Principals and school management developed a framework that assists schools on how best to manage the provision of guidance from within their staffing allocation. This approach puts a greater emphasis on group-work and class-based activity at senior cycle and maximises the amount of time available for those pupils that need one to one support. In addition, my Department published Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention, which I launched jointly with Minister Kathleen Lynch last January. The guidelines are informed by consultation with key Education and Health partners and by the findings of current research. They provide practical guidance to post-primary schools on how they can promote mental health and well-being in an integrated school-wide way and they also provide evidence-based advice on how to support young people who may be at risk of suicidal behaviour.