"What can I expect to be paid as a school counsellor?" and "Why are there such discrepancies in pay between these school-based roles?" are common questions that are asked of me in my role of Children Young People & Families Lead in the BACP policy team. One of the many issues I respond to on a regular basis is this variation around pay and what constitutes appropriate pay-bands for school counsellors in England.
I still shudder when I think of a term time only school counselling post a member sent to me advertised at £17,000 per annum. I did contact the school and queried the advertisement (perhaps this was a typo and should have read, £27,000?), I received no acknowledgement or reply from the school. In any of our policy work, we suggest a pro-rata rate of pay of £14,500 for two days of counselling provision or an average cost to deliver a single session somewhere between £34 and £47 when charging schools.
Another issue that comes up, though not as regularly, relates to the lack of understanding of what constitutes an appropriately trained and experienced CYP school counsellor. In responding to this we have a great opportunity to share our CYP competence framework, the extensive training of counsellors and their commitment to continuous CPD, thus providing schools with a trained and specialist mental health practitioner embedded within their setting.
In autumn 2020, we set up BACP’s first-ever expert reference group of school and college counsellors from across the UK. The group has provided a space to discuss a range of topics including pay, working conditions, how counsellors are funded and the role of counsellors within schools and community settings.
One of the frustrations discussed in the group links to low-paid contract work, with some members highlighting the growth of private enterprises and charging schools a much higher hourly rate than the counsellor would expect to earn if contracted on a sessional basis directly by the school. One such anecdotal example is of a counsellor being paid a set rate of £15 per session with the school being charged £60 plus per session. Although for some counsellors this acts as a vital stepping stone for securing paid work and does come with benefits such as access to supervision or training, this is a low rate of pay for a therapist in relation to the cost paid by the school and the cut taken by the delivery agency.
An organisation I’ve been working closely with since its inception in 2020 is TAC Access, or ‘team around the client’, led by two recently retired trailblazer school leaders, Julian Rose and Ruth Simmonds. They've come up with a platform directly cutting out these private money-making enterprises thus ensuring fair rates of pay.
TAC Access offers a unique platform for schools and colleges (and other commissioners) to book trained and experienced CYP counsellors, who've been vetted with references, to work directly with children and young people on a sessional basis. A key feature of the platform is that therapists can set their own rate of pay. It’s free to join until September for BACP members, then there's a monthly charge that can be cancelled at any point if a therapist feels they're not getting enough work following registration. TAC Access is a limited business with a percentage of its proceeds put back into opportunities for its members to access paid work, including offering training to schools.
Julian, who was a headteacher in a busy primary school until recently, talks about why TAC Access was formed, and how BACP registered and accredited members can sign up to the platform for free. Follow the link to register with the TAC Access platform and go to the top right-hand blue bar. The platform was initially set up for those working in and around West Sussex but is growing on a national scale and gaining interest from both local authority and healthcare commissioners.
Check out BACP's job board to find out more and search for 'Self-employed CYP Counsellors/Therapists - TAC Access'.
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Views expressed in this article are the views of the writer and not necessarily the views of BACP. Publication does not imply endorsement of the writer’s views. Reasonable care has been taken to avoid errors but no liability will be accepted for any errors that may occur.