Teaching unions and the Local Government Association (LGA) have echoed our call for the Government to fund school-based counselling in all secondary schools and academies.

The LGA – which represents councils in England and Wales – has said the investment is needed to help support increasing numbers of children and young people affected by mental health issues during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s urging the Government to use this month’s Spending Review to invest at least £100 million per year into rolling out school-based counselling to all state-funded secondary schools and academies.

Teaching unions NAHT (National Association of Head Teachers) and NEU (National Education Union) have also backed the call, stating that investing in school counselling is a “logical” and “sensible step” to support young people.

We’ve also called for a trained, professional counsellor in every secondary school and college in England to meet the growing mental health crisis facing children and young people in our submission to the Spending Review.

We’ve campaigned extensively over the past few years to highlight to MPs and the Government why school counselling is important and the positive difference counsellors can make in young people’s lives.

Our response

Jo Holmes, our Children, Young People and Families Lead, said: “We’re delighted that the LGA, alongside leading unions, are backing our call for government-funded school counselling.

“We know schools are struggling with budgets, the impact of COVID-19 and escalating mental health concerns of both students and staff.

“Securing additional funding to pay for qualified children and young people counsellors will help take the pressure off schools and colleges resulting in more equal access for our nation's children and young  people,  supporting them to get the critical help they need easily and as early as possible.”

The LGA has said that prevention activity work, such as making school-based counselling available to all children, would help reduce the estimated £119 billion annual cost of mental health problems in England.

It says the £100 million investment would ensure access to a school counsellor for at least two days a week for more than 90 per cent of schools. This would complement the existing roll-out of mental health support teams in schools.

What LGA say

Councillor Anntoinette Bramble, Chair of the LGA's Children and Wellbeing Board, said: “Supporting people's mental health and wellbeing underpins all aspects of the COVID-19 recovery and there is clear and positive evidence that school-based counselling can really make a difference to young people and complement the whole-school approach that is being developed. 

“With reports showing increasing numbers of young people seeking mental health support during the pandemic, it is crucial that early intervention and prevention services, such as school counselling where pupils may feel more able to confide in trusted professionals, are able to help children avoid reaching crisis point in the first place.”

What NAHT say

Paul Whiteman, General Secretary of the NAHT, said: “We know that schools value the vital support that in-school counselling services can provide, however, this is another area where schools have to use their own scant resources to fund support services that are not provided for in their budgets.

What NEU say

Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the NEU, said: "Schools definitely need more counsellors. Most secondary schools need at least one full time counsellor to keep up with the demands for their expert support and so we think the LGA recommendation is a good step in that direction.

“We agree with the LGA that more school-based counselling would be a sensible step given the increased number of young people with anxiety and mental health issues. Situating these services for young people in schools makes sense.

“We think the Government should be looking at a model whereby the services which young people and their parents and carers needs can be accessed through and in schools – and with funding planned accordingly.”