‘We are asking for a paid counsellor in every school’ – BACP’s national campaign continues to call for MP’s of all parties to lobby for the introduction of this provision at a national level; a counsellor to be available, in school, for all young people.

This robust, on-going campaign sings to my heart as a school-based counsellor, who is frustrated by the patchiness of provision of school-based counselling for young people in England. It is time to catch up with our fellow nations and provide this soothing, healing and enabling service, not only for all of our troubled and worried young people but also as a dependable support mainstay for our overstretched schools.

I have been passionate about school counselling as both a job and a profession ever since Dan, the school counsellor, appeared on my screen in an ancient episode of ‘Home and Away.’ Here, I first learned of the school counsellor role. A dedicated mental health expert in school who could help remove the important emotional barriers to learning and developing, that, as a teacher, I had often seen hold pupils back. I retrained and eagerly re-entered the educational world as a school counsellor.

In the intervening years, I have had the great fortune to work in a school that has embraced school counselling as an integral part of its education and well-being offer to the whole school. The result has been the steady, demand-led growth of a comprehensive school-based counselling service for pupils and staff, boldly embedded in the school’s pastoral and well-being teams and processes.

Face-to-face therapy has a lot to offer distressed young people, but it is even more powerful when we are in a position to help our most vulnerable pupils by using a ‘team around the child’ approach with teaching and counselling professionals working together, coherently and enthusiastically, in the best interests of the young person.

The effectiveness of this team work has been eloquently described by one of our pupils who said: "I first met my school’s counsellor when I was 14, I reached out for help but I either didn't realise what the matter was or I was hiding from it. The counsellor helped me reflect on the issues at my own pace. The school was then able to provide extra help, which ultimately stopped the issues which were catalysing my feelings. Three years on, I can reflect on harder times in my life knowing I learnt invaluable skills and have developed the emotional maturity and understanding of my mental health that my 14 year old self would have dreamed of".

In subsequent blogs I’d like to have a closer look at why our school decided to invest in a school-based counselling service, discover the various benefits stakeholders derive from our in-house support service, consider the unique challenges of responding to the current Covid-19 pandemic, reflect on getting involved in campaigning for a school counsellor in every school and the BACP’s School-Based Counselling Expert Reference Group and also to identify which school-based counselling difficulties and anomalies are yet to be addressed.