Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Questions (51)

Dessie Ellis

Question:

51. Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will respond to the claims that the reduction in the number of school guidance counsellors reflects his lack of understanding of the important role they perform in schools and that he is also denying children and young persons access to important supports and services when at school. [32219/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The budget measure that required schools to manage the provision of guidance from within their standard staffing allocation, was introduced as an alternative to adjusting the standard staffing schedule and must be seen in the context of our very difficult budgetary constraints. It is also worth pointing out that, as part of last year's budgetary measures, my Department helped shelter the impact for 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.