An email response issued on 13 November 2013 to the correspondence referred to by the Deputy. Since September 2012 guidance provision is organised by school management from within the staffing schedule allocation. In this way principals have discretion to balance guidance needs with the pressures to provide subject choice. I acknowledge that bringing guidance within quota is challenging for schools but the alternative was an increase in the 19:1 PTR. My Department helped shelter the impact of the budgetary measure for DEIS post-primary schools by improving their PTR to 18.25:1.
It is important to note that guidance is a whole school activity and it does not just involve the guidance counsellor. 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. Wherever possible, group work and class based activity should be used to maximise the amount of time available for those pupils that are in most need of one to one support.
My Department published Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention, which I launched jointly with Minister Kathleen Lynch. 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.