Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education Charlie McConalogue TD says Junior Cert students are losing out on essential guidance counselling because of regressive Government cuts. Teachers say they’ve been forced to cut back on the time allocated to Junior Cert students as a result of the changes brought in in 2012. Deputy McConalogue is backing the ASTI’s call for the restoration of full guidance services, which is being put to its members at its annual conference tomorrow.
“This Government is treating guidance counselling as if it is a second rate subject rather than an integral component of the second level system. Guidance counselling is more than advising students about subject choices and career options; counsellors are also equipped to deal with pupils’ emotional and psychological difficulties. Their expertise and support is essential in allowing schools to support the educational and developmental needs of their students”, commented Deputy McConalogue.
“Unfortunately, we have seen these support services being eroded because of crude measures enforced by Fine Gael and Labour in office. The decision to manage guidance provision within the standard teaching allocation has resulted in an effective increase in the pupil-teacher ratio at second level and has seriously undermined the work of counsellors. This has led to a massive 51% reduction in one-on-one counselling supports in secondary schools, with even greater cuts in disadvantaged areas. Teachers say they’ve had to reduce the focus on Junior Cycle students so that they can meet the needs of older students, essentially depriving those pupils of important supports.
“The loss of guidance counsellors, particularly in working class schools, is effectively closing off options for thousands of students across the country and has led to a disjointed approach to guidance provision. It is particularly important for students from less well-off backgrounds to have access to guidance counsellors as they may not have the family support or backing to complete their second level education or to go on to third level. Successive Governments have made real progress on tackling educational disadvantage and increasing third level participation, but the cuts brought in by this Government is seriously damaging the career and educational prospects of the students that need it most.
“Students have a right to have access to a fully functioning guidance service and teachers want to provide those supports. Minister Jan O’Sullivan must start listening to teachers. Full guidance services must be restored”.