Fianna Fáil Whip Seán Ó Fearghaíl has accused the Government of engaging in false economy savings by cutting guidance counsellors for second-level students.
Junior Education Minister Ciarán Cannon today refused to revisit the decision whereby guidance counselling is now provided from within the overall staffing allocation of a school. This amounts to a major cut to an essential resource for students to have in schools.
Deputy Ó Fearghaíl said: “Students need more guidance now than ever before because of a whole range of social problems that confront them and the challenges in the context of progression to third level. Initially, I would have said this was sleight of hand on the part of the Department, but it appears from the Minister for State’s response that this is a deliberate policy that is to the detriment of students.
“It is appalling for the Minister to say that he will not revisit the guidance issue, regardless of the economic circumstances in the country. For 40 years successive Ministers for Education saw to it that principals and vice principals and guidance counsellors were provided over and above the teaching allocation.
“The Government is involved in a process of false economy and the costs to the Department and the State in the long term will be greater as a result of the increased social problems, with which students will have to contend, and difficulties with progression to third level, with increasing numbers of students dropping out in first and second year because adequate counselling was not available to them and they failed to make the correct choices based on what was suitable for them.
“Last year a survey by the Institute of Guidance Counsellors (IGC) revealed that there was a 51% reduction in one-on-one counselling supports at second level since the start of the previous academic year. There is a clear body of evidence that the cuts to guidance counselling are limiting the choices for students and in every respect it is the students that are losing out. Fianna Fáil believes the specific provision of guidance counsellors for students at second level should be reinstated and we intend to continue pursuing this with the government.”