Our Children, Young People and Families Lead says cuts to school counselling services will have a “devastating impact” on schoolchildren across the country.

Jo Holmes said it was “shocking” that almost half of schools would be forced to reduce non-educational support and services next year – including counselling.

Jo was responding to findings of a survey of 11,000 school leaders in England by the union NAHT.

Two thirds (66%) of respondents said they will have to make teaching assistants redundant or reduce their hours while half (50%) said they are looking at reducing the number of teachers or teaching hours.

Cutting vital services

Close to half (47%) of schools said they would be forced to reduce non-educational support and services for children next year. This means cutting back on vital services such as counselling, therapy and mental health support.

Jo said: “The findings are shocking.

“We know that children’s mental health needs have risen dramatically during the pandemic and post-pandemic.

“They’re more worried and anxious, and that’s only going to increase as we go through the current cost of living crisis.

“If school counselling is taken away it will have a devastating impact on those schoolchildren who rely on that support.

“It will also put more pressure on support staff, and there’s the risk that they might be cut too. Some schools could have a double whammy of losing their counselling provision and support staff, and that would put all the pressure on the teachers.

“At a time when NHS children and adolescent mental health services are under enormous pressure, the government should be investing in school counselling to support our young people before they reach crisis, and prevent an overwhelming demand on mental health services in years to come.”

Unchartered territory

Jo added: “Our profession is in uncharted territory. On one hand counsellors are seen as crucial to responding to rising mental health needs but on the other hand they’re up against huge spending cuts where money is not ring-fenced or secured for essential services.

“This is why we continue to campaign for allocated funding for counselling, to protect children and young people, schools and the counselling workforce.”

Paul Whiteman, NAHT general secretary, said: "Schools are being hit by a perfect storm of costs. In attempting to balance their budgets, school leaders are being faced with eye-watering energy bills, spiralling costs to resources and supplies, and the financial impact of an unfunded pay increase this year.”

He added: "Schools are finding that they have no option but to make redundancies. A reduction in teaching assistants and teachers will be catastrophic, leading to larger class sizes and less support for children with the greatest needs. This cannot be allowed to happen.

"Schools will no longer be able to afford those crucial services that are there to support pupils – things that children rely on not just for education but for their health and wellbeing.

"Things like in-school mental health services, counselling, and speech and language therapy. And it's that extra help for families – especially those hit hardest by the cost-of-living crisis – that schools can no longer afford – things like food for breakfast and help with clothing and laundry.”