Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education and Skills Thomas Byrne TD has urged Minister Richard Bruton to give a commitment that additional guidance posts promised for the next school year will be delivered by staff with recognised qualifications in guidance services.

Deputy Byrne said, “There are some five weeks to go before the current school year ends. Teachers, students and parents require a solid guarantee that guidance hours in second-level schools are transparently ring-fenced, and that these hours will be staffed by qualified guidance counsellors.

“Recent research has shown there is a damaging conflict of interest where teachers both undertake guidance activities with students and then instruct the same students in a classroom environment. The best practice in this area is to have a trained professional providing guidance counselling independent of the classroom environment.

“Students urgently need the reinstated guidance posts to be delivered by personnel who have strong credentials and experience in the area, so that these students can avail of the best possible personal, educational, and vocational support to make empowered decisions. Research has shown that concerns over career options cause considerable anxiety for many students. It’s important that students are given access to professional guidance counselling in the interests of promoting positive mental health.

“Furthermore, new figures from the Higher Education Authority indicate that more than 6,000 Irish people are dropping out of college programmes in their first year, and the Union of Students in Ireland has called for additional assistance for guidance counsellors to help them support school-leavers in making the transition to third level. Investing in proper guidance counselling services will not only benefit students, but also the State. Students who have access to guidance counselling are more likely to pick courses that they will stay in until completion.

“Students deserve a highly professional service as they prepare for third-level study, and also the job market. Ireland’s economy is very dependent on students getting the right type of advice, information, and encouragement at second-level.

“The education cuts that were imposed by the previous government worsened social inequalities and educational disadvantage. This issue remains a top priority for Fianna Fáil. We insisted on the restoration of guidance counsellors in the Confidence and Supply Arrangement and we will be pushing hard for further funding to be made available for guidance counselling services in Budget 2018.”