ERO calls for review of guidance

The Education Review Office has recommended the Ministry of Education review its formula for guidance counselling funding in schools after it found some schools were not able to account for how they were spending the money.

A report, titled ''Improving Guidance and Counselling for Students in Secondary Schools'', has revealed ERO is concerned about the lack of accountability for the use of funding provided for guidance staffing.

''Although some were adding considerable additional resources to provide guidance and counselling for students, others were not able to account for how they spent the funding they received,'' the report said.

The findings in the report are based on visits by ERO to 49 secondary schools and wharekura this year, and a survey of 671 pupils at these schools.

ERO evaluation services manager Stephanie Greaney said less than two-thirds of the schools were providing guidance and counselling well, while more than a third needed to improve their provision.

''In this evaluation, we found that the varying importance ... placed on the role of guidance and counselling, contributed to the variable quality of service we saw provided.

''In many of the schools and wharekura, the guidance and counselling was of a good or very good standard, with leaders placing high value on it and its importance for student wellbeing and learning.''

However, Mrs Greaney said other schools did not make it a priority.

''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.''

Although guidance and counselling staff in many of the schools had the professional ability to help pupils, Mrs Greaney said their increasing workload made it difficult for them to fully respond to the complex nature of some of the pupils' problems.

ERO has also recommended the ministry provide clear guidance and support to schools, including the provision of professional learning and development for school leaders and people working in the roles.

Overall, pupils were positive about guidance and counselling in their school and more than two-thirds said it was socially acceptable at their school to see someone about guidance and counselling.

Bayfield High School guidance counsellor Ewen Cameron said the report seemed to be a fair reflection of the situation, but he believed Dunedin schools were served well by guidance counselling staff.

''Here at Bayfield High School, we place emphasis and resources on giving the best care possible to each individual student, and this pastoral approach seems to make it acceptable for students to seek help.

''There has been a definite increase in workload for school counsellors, with more socio-economic problems evident and the rise of social media creating problems.

Otago Girls' High School counsellor Ada Crowe and Taieri College counsellor Diana Leonard said the report ''pulls no punches'' about the scale of the problems schools are dealing with, and welcomed ERO's recommendations.



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