Deis schools have seen worst cuts to guidance counselling services

Services in poorer schools have fallen by 30% since economic crash

Deis schools have seen worst cuts to guidance counselling services

File photo: RollingNews.ie

Ireland’s poorest schools have seen the biggest fall in the level of guidance counsellor services, according to a new audit.

The study by the Institute of Guidance Counsellors (IGS) found that schools with high numbers of disadvantaged students, or Deis schools, have reduced practice hours by 30% since the 2011-12 academic year.

Students at non-Deis schools have also experienced cuts to services, with a 26.7% drop in hours over the same period.

By contrast, fee-paying schools reported an increase of 1.9% in counselling provision over the last four years.

The finding is in line with a recent ESRI report where researchers noted that "while Deis funding was largely ring-fenced during the cuts in public expenditure that have taken place since 2008 … other changes in educational policy have impacted, sometimes disproportionately, on disadvantaged schools”.

The IGS said the study shows an apparent socio-economic hierarchy to the provision of hours for guidance counselling, where those who can afford to pay receive the greatest benefit.  

“Guidance counselling is on its knees, with guidance counsellors in 2016 struggling on a daily basis to cope,” the professional body for practitioners said.

"Equality of access to guidance counselling is essential for setting all students' feet on the right path as they start out in life; and the removal of the dedicated service has entrenched the privilege of those who are already privileged, and undermine the prospects of those from less advantaged backgrounds in achieving their potential.  

"Guidance counselling is an entitlement of all, and not a luxury for only those who can afford it; and we hope that the urgent matters coming from these findings will be addressed and rectified, and guidance counselling fully restored."  

The audit is based on figures from 376 schools across the country, representing 52% of all schools and further education colleges.