Speaking to a school counsellor can be a transformative experience for children and young people. It can help them cope with the difficult circumstances they face in their lives - and to go on and flourish in the future.
But England is lagging behind in its provision of counselling in schools. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all have statutory funded school counselling services. England does not.
As children face increased change and uncertainty in their lives because of the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever before that they have access to this vital support.
Why we need school counselling
Studies show that school counselling can improve wellbeing and mental health, reduce levels of school exclusion and increase pupil attainment.
It’s an easily accessible, non-stigmatising and effective form of early intervention for reducing psychological distress in children and young people.
A trained counsellor gives a young person a place that is focused 100% on their needs – a safe space with no judgement to help them to understand and cope with what they’re going through.
They can have a positive effect on young people’s confidence, resilience, family relationships, friendships, school attendance and academic achievement.
The current situation
In England, Government plans to support children and young people's mental health are inadequate.
Unlike in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, school counselling rarely features in these plans. Instead:
- the NHS Long Term Plan commits to providing access to support for just an additional 345,000 children and young people by 2023-24 via NHS England’s funded mental health services
- this includes the development of new mental health support teams (MHSTs) that will work with just a fifth to a quarter of schools and colleges in England by 2023
- the £8 million investment to support the mental health of young people announced in the Budget will only scratch the surface of the issues that lie ahead. It focuses on upskilling school staff, but there is nowhere to refer students on to.
England needs to catch up with the other UK nations in the mental health support it offers children and young people – and there is no more crucial time than now to do this.
What we're doing
We believe that a paid counsellor should be available in every secondary school, academy and further education college in England.
This is a message we continually stress to politicians, commissioners, funders and education leaders.
Our proposal aims to complement existing investment by providing a cost-effective and universal, non-stigmatising early intervention.
It will help the ‘missing middle’ of young people, who do not meet the threshold for support for CAMHS but need more help than can be offered by mental health support teams.
It will help the 75 to 80% of schools not supported under this new MHST model.
We need a spending commitment from Government to ensure that embedded, sustainable school counselling services are at the heart of our whole school approach so we can best meet the needs of our students, enabling them to flourish and thrive, leading to the best outcomes possible
School counselling provides vital support for children and young people. Our research shows that it can bring about significant improvements in mental wellbeing.
We know that school-based counselling is an investment that can transform young people’s lives. It doesn’t just benefit their mental health, but also their confidence, relationships, friendships, school attendance and academic achievement.
The evidence for school counselling
It was the first time I got to see someone and let everything out. It was amazing having that support. That lasted all the way until I finished school.
Life is just a lot better. I’m a lot happier and I’m able to go out and enjoy and experience things
Having counsellors in schools would take the pressure off the NHS-provided services. Young people will feel their mental health issues are being recognised, rather than going to extremes