In September 2020 we hosted a webinar - The Changing Landscape of School and College Counselling - with guest speaker Professor Mick Cooper, alongside Jo Holmes (CYPF Lead), Sarah Watson (CYPF Ethics Lead) and Wendy Hay (CYPF Divisional Executive member), to provide an overview of our campaign work, research and ethical dilemmas related to school and college counselling.

This led a number of practitioners expressing an interest to be involved in an expert reference group to work on both existing and future campaigns.

School and college counselling intervention is defined as "a form of psychological therapy that provides young people with an empathic, non-judgmental, and supportive relationship to find their own answers to their problems’’ (Hill, Roth, Cooper, 2013). This is offered within a safe and boundaried space for children and young people to talk about their difficulties, within a relationship of agreed confidentiality.

The Expert Reference Group (ERG)

The ERG consists of around 20 members from a range of backgrounds, including those employed directly by schools and colleges and those working within the third sector, as well as private practitioners and volunteers.

The group advocates access to free counselling for children and young people while recognising that practitioners should be appropriately paid.

The group is committed to developing user-friendly resources to promote the role of evidence-based counselling so commissioners and service providers are clearer about professional standards, appropriate training and what counselling involves.

The group is chaired by Shira Baram and Niki Gibbs. If you have any suggestions for future campaigns or ideas for the group to take forward, please email

Shira Baram

Shira Baram, Co-Chair

I have quite a varied experience and background. I've worked as a secondary school teacher, often with students with special educational needs and disabilities, both as a form teacher and offering pastoral support. I've also worked in administration and management within the NHS and am currently leading on the health and wellbeing work stream and strategy for my division

I'm trained as a person-centred counsellor. My training included a placement with a charity offering counselling for children and young people both in and outside of schools. Since qualifying I've continued to work with young people, as well as working with older adults which gives me a greater appreciation for how experiences, feelings and emotions encountered as a child can affect and shape relationships and ability to process experiences later on in life. For me this highlights the importance and significance for children and young people being able to access counselling and support.

Providing children, teenagers and young people an opportunity to talk or express themselves artistically and creatively about things personal to them without any judgement is so valuable and essential, and is why I’m so passionate about increasing accessibility and counselling for children and young people as well as their families. 

Niki Gibbs

Niki Gibbs, Co-Chair

I'm a senior accredited member of BACP, manage a busy school counselling service, work as a counselling supervisor for the mental health charity, MIND and also maintain a teaching role as an Associate Lecturer in Counselling at the University of the West of England.

My counselling experience includes working on a mental health crisis helpline, in university, college and school counselling services, and also in private practice.

Gail Churney

Gail Churney

I'm a registered member of BACP and a highly experienced qualified counsellor. I've been in practice for over 20 years, beginning my training as a Relate counsellor, and also have a wealth of experience working with children and young people in many schools across London and Hertfordshire.

I also run a busy private practice working with young people, individuals, couples and families, both online and face to face. I'm also the lead counsellor and supervisor for a Community Bereavement Group.

Louisa James 

My career shift from the business world into therapy and counselling began a decade ago and was shaped by volunteering on helplines, being involved in family support work and training in a variety of approaches including person-centred counselling, CBT and art therapy. As a curious parent myself, I'm interested in how to best support teenage development.

I choose to specialise in working with adolescents and offering preventative and therapeutic interventions to this fascinating and inspiring client group. I'm a BACP registered counsellor and work in a busy school counselling service in a large comprehensive school. I also have my own private practice working with young people and adults.

Sarah Watson 

I'm a BACP Senior Accredited CYP Psychotherapist. I oversee a large schools-based counselling service that I set up in 2011 in Northumberland. I'm a counselling supervisor and manage a large team of therapists. In December 2019, I started my role as BACP CYP Ethics Consultant and very much enjoy my work with the ethics team, I love being part of BACP. I'm also a Welfare Officer for a local sports club and support them with any safeguarding issues. I've got a background in lecturing psychology and counselling in the North East.

I'm passionate about all things related to children and young people. I want to help to secure a counsellor in every school - granting access to good quality and inclusive mental health support for children and young people throughout their school lives.

Sue Lewis 

I'm a senior accredited counsellor and supervisor, with over 20 years of experience. I currently run a counselling service in a secondary school, as well as offering supervision privately. Over the years, I've worked with children, young people and adults in a variety of contexts (including primary schools, the NHS, the voluntary sector, employee assistance programmes and private practice.)

I've also worked as a trainer, both on a counselling diploma course and certificate and diploma courses for working with children and young people. I've worked with children and young people all my working life, having previously worked as a primary school teacher. 

Clare Ewers-Archer

I'm a humanistic and integrative counsellor working from a relational and person-centred perspective. I set up and run a counselling service in a Nottingham primary school. Prior to completing my training in counselling and psychotherapy, I was a primary school teaching assistant for 14 years. I'm a member of the school and college-based counselling ERG as I'm passionate about the benefits of a paid counsellor in every school and college in England.

Sian Clare

Before qualifying as a counsellor in 2006 I worked for the local authority in various roles working with young people. These included working with LAC, running alternative education provision, delivering holiday provision and working with young people with SEN.

My counselling experience includes counselling at York Women’s Counselling Service and Hull University. I currently work in two secondary schools in York and also have a private practice. I've recently set up a peer supervision group for counsellors working in schools in York and I’m currently studying for a supervision qualification.