Fianna Fáil has said the damning new survey on the impact of the Government’s cut to the guidance provision must act as a wake-up call for the Education Minister Ruairí Quinn.
The party’s Education Spokesperson Charlie McConalogue has again called on Minister Quinn to reverse the cut after the IGC study confirmed that guidance services in schools have been decimated.
Deputy McConalogue commented, “Unfortunately this survey is confirmation of what I and my party feared would happen after Minister Quinn removed the ex-quota allocation for the guidance provision in Budget 2012. We have consistently said it was a huge mistake to dismantle a service that has taken years to develop, and that the move would have a major impact on the most vulnerable students and particularly those in more disadvantaged schools.
“This study shows there has been a 51% reduction in one-to-one counselling in schools since the start of this academic year and that services in disadvantaged schools in particular have plummeted since September. In addition to this, 13% of guidance and counselling services are now being delivered by unqualified staff with no specialised training. This is an extremely worrying development.
“Minister Quinn seemed to suggest on Morning Ireland that having regular teachers, who are already extremely busy with their subject requirements, is somehow a sufficient replacement for a qualified counsellor. This exposes the Minister’s complete lack of understanding of just how important qualified counsellors are, particularly for vulnerable students who need one-to-one attention.
“In defending this cut last year, Minister Quinn fed parents and students the line that schools would be ‘empowered’ to decide themselves how best to allocate resources. But we now know that this was nothing more than hollow rhetoric and the truth is schools are struggling to provide a proper counselling service. With the increasing prevalence of youth mental health issues, the need to provide support for young people in a school setting has never been more important. Minister Quinn must realise that his cut to guidance provision is a cut too far.”