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 government funded school counselling services. England does not. This means some schools have provision, others don't.
As children face increased change and uncertainty in their lives because of the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the knock-on effect of the cost of living crisis, it’s more important than ever before that they have access to this vital therapeutic support.
Why we need school counselling
School counselling is an easily accessible, non-stigmatising and effective form of early intervention for reducing psychological distress in children and young people.
A trained school counsellor gives a young person a place that is focused 100% on their needs – a safe space to help them to understand and cope with what they’re going through.
Counselling has a positive effect on young people’s confidence, resilience, sense of self-worth, family relationships, friendships, school attendance and academic achievement.
The current situation
In England, Government plans to support children and young people's mental health remains inadequate.
Unlike in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, school and college counselling rarely features in these plans, though some integrated care systems (formerly clinical commissioning groups) do directly fund short term counselling provision, often within the voluntary sector but also delivered in schools.
The Government has committed funding within the NHS Long Term Plan providing additional access to support for children and young people via NHS England’s funded mental health services.This includes expanding mental health support teams (MHSTs), with the aim of reaching 50% of schools and colleges by 2024-2025, with low level evidence-based interventions provided by educational mental health practitioners. MHST’s do not include funding for a step-up to counselling. BACP is supportive of the recommendations made in Barnardo’s It’s hard to talk review of MHSTs where they state that the model should be expanded under the banner MHST+ which is inclusive of counselling interventions for children and young people when current MHST interventions don’t go far enough.
Our message remains consistent, England needs to catch up with other UK nations regarding Government funded counselling interventions offered to children and young people – and there is no more crucial time than to influence this agenda in the run up to a general election.
What’s more, 82% of parents with children aged four to 17 believe counselling or psychotherapy should be freely available to all school children, throughout all schools. BACP and You Gov survey 2022.
What we're doing
We believe that a paid counsellor should be available in every secondary school, academy and further education college in England and that money for these vital services should not come out of school’s existing budgets.
This is a message we continually stress to politicians, commissioners, funders and education leaders.
We campaign for cost effective and evidence based universal access to early help counselling interventions, financed through central Government funding streams. We always stress that school counselling goes some way to reach the missing middle of children and young people, by that we mean those who don't meet the threshold for support for CAMHS but need more help than can be offered by mental health support teams or existing pastoral support.
Funded school counselling provision for all will also help pupils not supported under the MHST model, as well as being able to work with more complex issues with a bespoke focus on what that particular child or young person needs from counselling.
Our campaign work
We're working closely with Citizens UK and partner organisations to call for funded school counselling provision across schools and colleges in England. We're part of a national campaign group, led by Citizens UK, to influence party manifestos in the run up to the next general election. Key education unions are supportive of this campaign and form part of our wider networks to influence change.
School counselling survey
Our member-led school counselling expert reference group, alongside the policy and research team at BACP, in collaboration with three leading teaching unions, carried out a school counselling survey in January 2022. The key findings from this research influences our policy and campaign work.
If you're interested in being part of our on-going campaign work, or membership of the wider ERG group, contact email@example.com.
The evidence for school counselling
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.
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