Austerity hurt student mental health supports, principals say

New survey shows guidelines are still not being effectively implemented across the country...

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Over 80% of Irish secondary school principals believe that student mental health supports were severely undermined in the wake of the recession.

Austerity measures, such as the moratorium on school middle-management posts, were cited by 82% of principals as undermining student pastoral care structures and mental health supports.

Schools have lost an average of six middle-management posts (known as posts of responsibility) since 2009.

These posts are focused on student pastoral care structures and include year heads and class tutors whose responsibilities typically incorporate student attendance, student engagement and monitoring students at risk.

Despite the recovery, over 40% of principals also reported that Department of Education guidelines on student mental health are not adequately implemented in their schools.

The survey of 1,749 teachers and school principals was commissioned by the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) and conducted by Millward Brown in February.

ASTI President Máire G. Ní Chiarba said: "The research is unequivocal. Pastoral care structures have been substantially undermined by the moratorium.

"In addition, increased workload is reducing the amount of time teachers have for vital non-teaching work including supporting students with difficulties".

"The wellbeing of young people is a major public health concern which is widely reported in the media. However, it is not a priority when it comes to education policy.

Supporting students' wellbeing and mental health requires more than procedures and guidelines, it requires adequate 'human' resources at school level. The very resources which students need to support their wellbeing have been greatly diminished in schools".