It can be a daunting process setting up a counselling service in a school. A survey of school leaders in 20171 found that over a third of respondents did not feel confident about commissioning a counsellor.

Two of the most common barriers for schools included confusion as to what school counselling is, and schools not having clear expectations for their counselling service.

This guidance document is designed to directly address these worries by providing a clear outline of the key components expected of school-based counselling provision, whatever the funding stream available or mode of service delivery offered.

Embed a counselling service

At the heart of this guidance is the intention to equip schools with the knowledge needed to successfully embed a counselling service that retains its unique professional identity, while still being an integral part of the wider school community.

The guidance includes a number of key considerations ensuring the development of safe and effective school-based counselling services, including keeping up to date with best practice and legal obligations, an understanding of the relevant qualifications and experience required of counselling professionals working with children and young people.

The guidance also provides a comprehensive overview, aligned to the professional identity of the school-based counselling workforce, of how to deliver the highest quality counselling services to children and young people in a range of school settings. It also acts as a reference point for educational professionals seeking to employ or contract counselling services as well as for counselling professionals working in those services.

The context

With the above in mind, BACP have worked alongside our UK-wide school-based counselling expert reference group to develop this guidance document to help when setting up or building on current in-house counselling provision, as well as essential considerations when working with external counselling agencies or providers.

While acknowledging school budgets are often stretched, we continue to campaign for Government funded school (and community) counselling provision in England, ensuring the highest quality of standards, service delivery and working conditions for the counselling profession. Our work is inclusive of professional standards across the UK, including in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland where Government funded independent counselling services are available in post primary school settings.

This guidance is intended to be relevant for schools and commissioners across the UK, with school counsellors from all four nations having contributed to its content.

*We would particularly like to thank BACP member Niki Gibbs, co-chair of the Expert Reference Group (ERG) from 2020-2022, for leading on this guidance, with special thanks to Durham School Counselling Service, the Scottish School Counsellor’s Practice Network, the wider school based Counselling Expert Reference group and the CYPF Divisional Executive for their contributions. 

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1 Children’s Mental Health Week Report (2018)‘’ Providing Mental Health Support in UK Schools’’ Place2Be, BACP, NAHT, UKCP