Counselling services need to be made a normal part of school provision, as new research into UK school counselling shows

A report on the provision of counselling in schools, commissioned by the Welsh Assembly Government, has emphasised the importance of services being seen as:

  • non-stigmatising by the school community
  • a normal part of school provision, which is integrated into the school community.

‘If counselling services are to be effective in schools,’ the report says, ‘young service users need to see them as approachable, trustworthy and effective. Information about services must be readily available and informative, and referral systems must be developed that ensure the service is easily accessible to potential clients and their referers.’

Growing interest
The growing interest in counselling in schools across the UK is driven, the report says, by an increasing awareness of the role that schools can play in helping to promote emotional health for children and young people and address mental health issues, including psychological and behavioural problems. In 2004, the children’s commissioner for Wales recommended that the Welsh Assembly Government devise a national strategy for the provision of an independent counselling service for children and young people in education, along with training and support for teachers in their pastoral role.

The research, which was carried out by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) with various university partners, aimed to evaluate counselling services in operation across the UK in order to assess whether current counselling models are:

  • sufficiently robust and flexible to apply more widely throughout Wales
  • adaptable enough to fit in with the new planning and joint working arrangements that will be put in place as part of developments under the Children Act 2004.

Desk research identified 12 models operating across the UK:

  • counselling as part of a multi-agency team
  • school-based healthcare staff
  • teaching staff
  • in-house peer support
  • centralised peripatetic local authority provision
  • centralised/in-house local authority provision
  • singleton practitioner model
  • in-school provision by external agency
  • out of school provision by external agency
  • cluster model
  • management only model
  • vetted/pool model.

These models of school counselling are distinguished from each other by different components that are included in their structure, and in the way that individual services are operationalised, including the roles and job descriptions of counsellors.

Increasing provision

The survey showed that counselling provision has increased in Wales over the last three years. Almost two-thirds of schools surveyed provided a formal counselling service. This provision was largely concentrated in secondary schools: three-quarters of those surveyed provided a counselling service for pupils.

Counselling in Schools: A Research Study into Services for Children and Young People involved researchers from the Universities of Manchester, Newcastle, Strathclyde and Bristol. A copy of the full report is available from the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy website