The Otago Primary Principals' Association is backing calls
for the Government to introduce guidance counsellors to New
Zealand primary and intermediate schools.
The New Zealand Association of Counsellors (NZAC) believes it
could help reduce New Zealand's ''appalling bullying and
family violence'' statistics.
NZAC spokeswoman Sarah Maindonald said school guidance
counsellors were a first line of defence against bullying,
which was often the indicator of a range of other emotional
and mental health issues that could grow into longer-term
social problems, including family violence.
However, Ms Maindonald said there was no Ministry of
Education funding for counsellors in primary and intermediate
schools, where research showed bullying could be an issue.
And while counsellors worked in secondary schools, they were
''Many students who bully, and who are bullied, have low
levels of communication and conflict resolution skills, both
of which can be addressed in schools through guidance
''The earlier you identify these children and teach them
these skills, the more you ... prevent long-term ill effects.
''These children, both the bully and the bullied, are better
adjusted with increased skills as adolescents and young
adults, and less at risk in the longer term of creating
problems for themselves and for others in their community.
''Extrapolate that even further and you can have an impact on
New Zealand's appalling rate of family violence and child
Ms Maindonald said if all pupils had access to a trained
professional who could support them and their family from an
early age to improve communication and relationships skills,
New Zealand would be making a positive investment that would
pay significant dividends for society.
''Counselling in schools is proven to reduce students'
psychological stress and enable greater engagement in
Otago Primary Principals' Association president Whetu Cormick
said all schools, not just those in Otago, would welcome
increased funding to support pupils with counselling needs.
''Every day, schools work tirelessly to help students with
their skills to communicate and resolve conflict. Extending
resources such as social workers in school and [having]
guidance counsellors in every school would help greatly.''
Ministry of Education deputy secretary, regional operations,
Katrina Casey said a guidance counsellor was not always a
full-time designated role. Many schools often assigned the
role to an experienced teacher, member of staff or one of the
''Schools are able to use their operational budget to fund
specialist guidance counsellors if they believe there is a
"The ministry works closely with other agencies, including
Child Youth and Family Services and the Ministry of Health,
where appropriate, to ensure schools have the necessary
support where a specific need is identified.''
She said a range of support networks for pupils with
behavioural or emotional needs was already available.
The ministry is considering recommendations contained in an
Education Review Office review of guidance counselling, she