School guidance counsellors under pressure - ERO

A growing number of school students are seeking help from counsellors - and a new report has found many guidance services are struggling under pressure or simply not up to scratch.

The Education Review Office has raised serious concerns about the quality of secondary school guidance services, and says improvement is needed at about one in three schools.

Funding has also been flagged by ERO, with some schools unable to account for how they spent money provided for guidance staffing.

The report, Improving Guidance and Counselling for Students in Secondary Schools, is part of the Prime Minister's Youth Mental Health Project which aims to improve the mental health of young people aged 12 to 19 years.

Its findings are based on visits by ERO to 49 secondary schools and wharekura this year. A survey of 671 students at the schools was also completed.

Stephanie Greaney, evaluation services manager for ERO, said a key finding was an increasing workload at many of the schools made it difficult for otherwise competent staff to help students.

Just over one-third of schools surveyed needed to improve the guidance and counselling offered.

"Research shows that student wellbeing is critical for student achievement ... we found that the varying importance which schools and wharekura placed on the role of guidance and counselling contributed to the variable quality of service we saw provided," Mrs Greaney said.

"Many schools undertook little or no self-review of their guidance and counselling provision, so school leaders didn't know if it was meeting the needs of students."

ERO has recommended the Ministry of Education provides clear guidance and support, including professional learning and development for school leaders and guidance and counselling staff.

It has also recommended that the ministry reviews how services are funded.

- By Nicholas Jones of the New Zealand Herald

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