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, 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 in the voluntary sector but also delivered in schools. The Government has committed funding to:
- the NHS Long Term Plan commits to providing additional access to support for children and young people by 2023-24 via NHS England’s funded mental health services
- this includes the development of mental health support teams (MHSTs), with a £79 million boost to train additional psychological wellbeing practitioners to work in these roles. This is not new money and was part of the plan before the COVID-19 pandemic. The teams will still only work with just one third of pupils in schools and colleges in England by 2023. These services are not yet all in place other than in selected geographical areas.
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’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/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.
This is a message we continually stress to politicians, commissioners, funders and education leaders.
We campaign to complement existing investment by providing a cost-effective and universal, non-stigmatising early intervention.
School counselling reaches the ‘missing middle’ of young people, those who do not meet the threshold for support for CAMHS but need more help than can be offered by mental health support teams or pastoral support.
Funded school counselling provision will also help the 65% of 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 so far
In September 2020 you sent 3,000 letters to MPs to put pressure on the Chancellor of the Exchequer to consider funding school and college counselling as part of the comprehensive spending review (CSR). This helped create discussions between cross party MPs and gained support from leading mental health charities.
Jon Trickett, Labour MP for Hemsworth, tabled an early day motion calling for funding for school counselling services which has been supported by 37 MPs from across a range of parties. A further 2,000 letters were sent to MPs to support this ask.
Nick Brown (MP for Newcastle East) and Rob Halfon (MP for Harlow) called for a school counselling Westminster debate in November 2021. We briefed all cross party MPs before this debate.
Our member-led school counselling expert reference group considered the gaps in recent campaign work and decided to target school and college leaders (in England) via reseach to look at the benefits and challenges linked to investing in counselling provision. The study, supported by the policy and research team at BACP alongside three leading teaching unions, was carried out in January 2022.
If you are interested in being part of our ongoing 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