The Education Minister Ruairí Quinn is refusing to recognise the impact of cuts to guidance counsellors in schools across the country and won’t take any action to prevent serious consequences for students, according to Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education Charlie McConalogue.
 
Minister Quinn told Deputy McConalogue in the Dáil this week that he has no intention of assessing the impact on schools and students of cuts to the guidance counsellor provision in Budget 2012.
 
Deputy McConalogue said schools are only now experiencing the real impact of the decision to scrap the ex quota provision for guidance counsellors in Budget 2012.  
 
Questioning the Minister in the Dáil, the Fianna Fáil Deputy said, “A recent tragic incident in County Wexford indicates just how valuable the guidance counsellor service is to students.  A student who wanted to see a guidance counsellor but was not able to do so was subsequently hospitalised.  When this was brought to the attention of the Department of Education, the school was allocated an additional allocation of 11 hours.  
 
“There is an onus on the Minister to ask for an assessment across all schools to establish the impact of this cut.  It is not good enough for his Department to simply respond after a serious incident has occurred.  If this Wexford school needed an additional 11 hours, why would other schools across the country not need additional hours as well?” asked Deputy McConalogue.
 
In response Minister Quinn said, “It is not something I intend to audit as suggested by the Deputy.  It is established policy that guidance is a whole-school activity and under existing arrangements each school develops a school guidance plan as a means of supporting the needs of its students.  I am confident schools will act in the best interest of students.”
 
Deputy McConalogue said the Minister is refusing to face up to the reality of these cuts and admit that he was wrong.
 
“It is extremely worrying that the Minister won’t even consider assessing the impact of this cut now that it is being felt at school level.  At the very least, we need to know if preventative action is necessary at certain schools where dangerous gaps may have occurred.  It is not good enough to just respond to a tragedy after it happens.  
 
“It could be a case that when Minister Quinn removed the ex quota allocation for guidance counsellors in this year’s budget, he didn’t realise the potential serious consequences for students. Now that the cut has become a reality in schools across the country, he must do the right thing and assess the impact of his decision so that any potential risks can be addressed. I am calling on the Minister to do this before similar tragic situations arise in other schools throughout the country.”