We’re due to appear before the Scottish Parliament’s Education Committee for a session on counselling in schools.

Jo Holmes, our Children, Young People and Families Lead, will give verbal evidence to the committee on Wednesday about Scottish Government’s £60-million investment in 350 new school-based counsellors.

We have been instrumental in lobbying for this investment over the past decade. Since the investment was announced, we were approached to advise Scottish Government on implementation, alongside Counselling and Psychotherapy in Scotland (COSCA).

Jo said: “We’re pleased to present evidence to the committee on this important investment by Scottish Government for counselling across Scotland's secondary schools, building on existing provision undertaken by many of our members in Scotland.

“We have been delighted to help inform Scottish Government, drawing on advice of our members in Scotland.


“We will be using this opportunity to call for improved evaluation and guidance, helping to ensure the programme will best meet the needs of our most vulnerable children and young people.”

We will be joined in the session by representatives from Scottish Government's Wellbeing Unit, Scotland's Local Government Association (COSLA),  Relationships Scotland and therapists from the Spark.

It will be led by questions from committee members, but Jo aims to raise a series of points and recommendations, including:  

  • We have advised from the outset that counsellors working in schools should be in paid roles and be members of a relevant professional body which has an established ethical framework and complaints procedure. Therapeutic work with young people is complex, and as such a counsellor who belongs to a professional body, such as BACP or COSCA, will have expert support, advice and guidance, when required.
  • Drawing on evidence from our members’ survey, we believe there is demand for these additional school counselling roles in Scotland as well as demand to extend the current number of qualified supervisors working with children and young people.
  • The effectiveness of school- based counselling services should be monitored and evaluated by individuals or an agency (in or out of the school) and findings incorporated into practice. We would like to see development of a robust evaluation framework to capture the impact of school-based counselling while highlighting transparency and accountability.
  • We recommend supervision costs for the counsellors are built into the delivery costs as is the case in Wales and Northern Ireland. 
  • In addition, we’re calling for development of a school-based counselling operational toolkit, building on good practice in Wales and Northern Ireland. This will provide guidance for service providers and commissioners ensuring consistency of delivery and better accountability while allowing services the freedom to best decide how to meet local needs. We are keen to support Scottish Government and COSLA to help develop this.

The session starts at 10am on Wednesday and will be live on Scottish Parliament TV.