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11 August 2015

Article in The Irish Times at exam results time with comments from the IGC President

Today is the day that all 6th year students have worked toward – one of the biggest days in their school life.  For some it brings excitement as it opens up the route to the next phase of their lives.  For others it initially brings disappointment, anxiety and uncertainty until they talk to their guidance counsellor or the Freephone helpline who will reassure them on alternative routes, so that they can make informed decisions about the choices they faced and their future career paths.

According to the latest ERSI study “Student Stress and the Leaving Certificate” (ERSI, 2015), the main source of stress on the student of today is the young person’s own desire to do well in their exams; and the Institute of Guidance Counsellors believes that it is the role of government to support all children to achieve their potential, through providing a universal entitlement to support services in areas such as guidance counselling.

The ESRI study, when taken in conjunction with the recently published study by Dr. Harkin “From ex-quota to in-quota” (Harkin, 2015), brings to public attention the catastrophic impact that the removal of a dedicated guidance counselling service from our second level schools by the Government in 2012.  At ground level, the removal of the dedicated guidance counselling service has widened the divide between student in fee-paying schools and those students in the free education system (FES).

Students thrive whose parents have the resources to ensure their children's schools have a
high quality guidance counselling service, and therefore secure the majority of highly sought
after third level places.  For the rest of the school going population, personal, educational
and vocational support services through the work of their guidance counsellor has experienced an overall cut in the past three years of the order of 24%, with a catastrophic
59% reduction in one-to-one counselling (IGC, 2014) - an unprecedented level never before witnessed in the Irish education system.

This cut to guidance counselling service provision in FES schools is not only causing untold distress to students, parents, teachers, and not least guidance counsellors, but impacts on the future potential of these students and exacerbates education inequality further. According to the IGC President, Betty McLaughlin, the ERSI finding on the “the importance of students receiving the guidance necessary to make well-informed choices at senior cycle level” supports the Institute’s own position that “it makes no sense either educationally or from a broader economic perspective to be denying guidance counselling services to these students, as the results of this loss will only lead to higher drop-out rates in the future, and will ill-equips these students to face life challenges ahead as citizens of tomorrow”.

We clearly now have a very uneven and disjointed service! Students are the real losers – we are now witnessing a major reduction of a core element of the student support services in schools which was slowly and systematically built up over many years. The Institute’s fears that while all students would be affected by the removal of guidance counselling, and in particular that disadvantaged and vulnerable students would suffer most, has reached fruition. 

The 1800 265 165 Freephone Helpline, staffed by members of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors who are fully qualified experts in their field, opens from 10 a.m. today and will take calls from students, parents and teachers seeking advice and information on what choices are available to students, and will continue until 12 noon, Wednesday, 19th.

Betty Mc Laughlin,
Institute of Guidance Counsellors