School counsellors can ease the burden on teachers struggling to support the growing number of children with mental health issues.

Jo Holmes, our Children, Young People and Families Lead, has reiterated our call for a paid counsellor in every secondary school, academy and FE college in England to bring them in line with the rest of the UK.

She was responding to a report in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine highlighting the strains that schools and teachers are facing in order to support schoolchildren.

School counsellors

Jo said professional counsellors should be available in all schools, as she countered the report’s suggestion that teachers be trained to promote good mental health, provide support and respond to children’s issues.

“Teachers are there to teach,” said Jo. “Aside from the training and supervision that would be required, teachers haven’t got the time in their day to provide the level of mental health support that’s needed.

“It’s great that schoolchildren have such good relationships with their teachers that they can go to them with their issues as their first port of call.

“But teachers need somewhere to signpost to, they are not trained to carry this additional burden and they must look after their own mental health too.

“School counselling is ideal as it forms part of the whole school approach.

“It also reaches the missing middle of young people, those who do not meet the threshold for support for CAMHS (children and adolescent mental health services) but need more help than can be offered by by either pastoral staff, or mental health support teams in those schools which have access to this additional support.


“School counsellors are onsite, so they can build those relationships with young people who need to talk to someone, offering a confidential safe space so they can explore the many complex issues that a young person may be struggling with.

“It’s unrealistic to put that additional pressure on teachers. For a start they have nowhere to process these extensive mental health caseloads, so they’d need supervision, where would the time and resources be for that?”

The report, titled Teachers: the forgotten health workforce, concluded that children's health needs weren’t being met by the health sector.

“Schools and teachers provide vital support, but they are buckling under the strain of the demands placed on them,” it said.

“To the extent that they perform public health and primary care roles, they should receive funding to support them to deliver these functions.”

The report said that funding should come from the health sector, adding: “The scale of investment in them must match the scale of the task they undertake: educating the nation's children, promoting their healthy development, and providing them with frontline health and wellbeing services.”


But Jo said: “The funding would be better invested in schools counselling.

“Access to a trained, paid counsellor in every school provides young people with a service that’s focused on their needs, a safe space to help them understand and cope with what they’re going through. This includes an agreed time slot which teachers can’t always give.

“Counselling provision eases the growing strain on school staff and allows them to concentrate on teaching and the many other activities which make up the already jam-packed school day.”