NE GalleryUseful Links Gallery
16 May 2016

DEIS takes the Brunt of Austerity Cuts to Guidance Counselling in Schools; where One-to-One Counselling has been Cut by

Press Release
Betty McLaughlin
National President
Institute of Guidance Counsellors (IGC)

DEIS takes the Brunt of Austerity Cuts to Guidance Counselling in Schools;
where One-to-One Counselling has been Cut by 53.5 per cent

Since 2011/12, in terms of overall practice hours DEIS schools have experienced a 30.0 percent loss, non-DEIS schools a 26.7 percent loss, and fee-paying schools gained 1.9 percent.   Overall, there appears to be a socio-economic hierarchy to the provision of hours for guidance counselling, where those who can afford to pay for it receive the greatest benefit.  Guidance counselling is on its knees, with guidance counsellors in 2016 struggling on a daily basis to cope.

The Institute of Guidance Counselling President, Betty McLaughlin, is delighted to launch the findings from the Institute’s 2015/16 National audit of guidance counselling practice in second level schools and colleges of further education (CFE).  As we go to press today, we acknowledge the timely agreement written into the new programme for Government for a full restoration of guidance counselling to all schools.  The findings emanating from the audit are stark and confirm that guidance counselling has been decimated since the introduction of austerity cuts in September 2012.  

Audit 4 Findings
Here are highlighted some of the important and concerning findings from Audit 4, based on analyses of actual data returned by three hundred and seventy-six schools, which represents 52.0 per cent of all schools and CFE’s in Ireland.  

Overall Practice Hours 2011/12 – 2015/16
Overall, there appears to be a socio-economic hierarchy to the provision of hours for guidance counselling, where those who can afford to pay for it receive the greatest benefit.  
•    Only 94.4% of schools are receiving practice hours from the general school teacher allocation, 5.6% are not, which represents 21 schools.  
•    Overall, schools are providing 17.76 hours per week, down from 24.54 in 2011/12, a decrease of 27.6 per cent.  DEIS schools are providing 15.80 hours, a decrease of 30.0 per cent, while non-DEIS schools provide 18.44 hours, a decrease of 26.7 percent.  At the same time, fee-paying schools report an increase of 1.9 percent, up from 23.54 in 2011/12 to 24.0.
•    Of the 5.6 per cent not receiving hours, nine schools are paying privately for the service and are providing 21.25 hours.  Twelve schools are not paying for the service and are providing 0.00 hours.  Nine of these schools are voluntary secondary schools.  
•    Of the nine schools paying privately to provide the service, four are fee-paying schools who are providing the greatest provision of 27.08 hours, while four are voluntary secondary schools providing 17.0 hours.  
•    At the same time, 9 schools report they have no guidance counsellor at all.  

Overall, 26 per cent of all post-primary schools fall under DEIS, and this finding of a disproportionate impact of the removal of the ex-quota allocation between DEIS and non-DEIS schools is in line with the ESRI Report “Learning from the Evaluation of DEIS ( Smyth et al., 2015) , where researchers found that “while DEIS funding was largely ring-fenced during the cuts in public expenditure that have taken place since 2008 … other changes in educational policy have impacted, sometimes disproportionately, on disadvantaged schools. Such changes include the removal of the ex-quota allowance for guidance counsellors” (Smyth et al., 2015).  

Impact of Loss by School Types: 2015/16
•    Community/comprehensive schools lost 32.7 per cent;
•    Voluntary secondary schools lost 29.6 per cent:
•    ETB schools/colleges lost 27.0 per cent;
•    Colleges of further education lost 6.6 per cent;
•    Fee-paying schools gained 1.9 per cent

How Overall Practice Hours of 17.76 Are Spent
•    4.52 hours are spent teaching classroom guidance;
•    5.59 hours on one-to-one student work (personal, career and educational);
•    1.46 hours on group work; and
•    6.17 hours on other guidance counsellors’ activities, including administration.  
•    In addition, 4.35 hours a week are spent on combined subject teaching, SPHE and other classroom teaching/activity.   
•    In terms of overall loss between 2011/12 and 2015/16, one-to-one student work has dropped from 12.0 hours to 6.43 hours per week, which represents a catastrophic decrease in service of 53.5 per cent.  

Harkin (2015) found that the demand for personal counselling in FES schools forced prioritisation, with preventative work disappearing, resulting in the guidance service became a reactive crisis intervention one.  

DEIS schools had previously been in receipt of additional guidance resources through the Guidance Enhancement Initiative; and The Economic & Social Research Institute Report, “Learning from the Evaluation of DEIS” (Smyth et al. 2015) had highlighted that its abolition was likely to lead to even greater difficulties in combining the educational guidance and personal counselling elements of the guidance counsellor role in the context of reduced resources (Smyth et al., 2015).  

Other Work Performed by Guidance Counsellors
•    There has been a decrease of 17.4 per cent in the time guidance counsellors have to spend on their other duties, including administration, which includes the additional significant workload of the two new supplementary admission routes, HEAR and DARE, introduced to widen access to third level education.  
•    Almost 40% of guidance counsellors complete all their other guidance counselling duties, including administration, in their own personal time and at their own expense.  

Employed Guidance Counsellors in Schools
•    Overall, since 2011/12 the number of qualified guidance counsellors employed has dropped by 8.4 per cent.  
•    In total, 14.1 per cent of employed guidance counsellors are not practicing on a weekly basis, up from 6.1 per cent in 2011/12.  
•    Nine schools report they do not have a qualified guidance counsellor employed.  
•    DEIS schools have a greater percentage of guidance counsellors employed but not practicing at 18.7 per cent than non-DEIS schools have at 12.7 per cent.     
•    The mean number of qualified guidance counsellors employed by DEIS schools is 1.4, while in non-DEIS schools the figure is 1.57.  At the same time, the mean number employed and practicing in DEIS schools is 1.14 and in non-DEIS schools 1.37.  This evident gap is found at the same time as alleviation posts have been allocated to DEIS post-primary schools through a lower pupil-teacher ratio of 18.25:1 (compared to the norm of 19:1) to compensate for the removal of ex quota guidance posts.  

Unqualified Staff Delivering Guidance Counselling
•    Sixty-three schools report using 106 unqualified persons to deliver guidance on a weekly basis; 21.3 per cent of whom are guidance counsellors in-training, while 78.7 per cent are unqualified staff. 

External Providers of Guidance Counselling
•    6.1 per cent report the use of external providers, primarily private and/or retired guidance counsellors.
•    28.2 per cent report the use of external providers for one-to-one counselling.  Counsellors, therapists, and psychologists are employed by 59.2 per cent of schools, while of a diverse range of seventeen different groups/organisations are used 40.8 per cent of schools.

While it is acknowledged on behalf of the schools that this solution to the gap in the provision of service is with the best intent, what is been ignored is the absence of an overarching quality system to determine the qualification of service providers, their service standard, and their Garda Clearance levels.  The use of this practice is high risk for students and needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. 

Are Guidance Counsellors Free to Attend Supervision/CPD
Overall, 12.5 per cent are not free to attend supervision, and 18.8 per cent are not free to attend Continuing Professional Development.  

Equality of access to guidance counselling is essential for setting all students’ feet on the right path as they start out in life; and the removal of the dedicated service has entrenched the privilege of those who are already privileged, and undermine the prospects of those from less advantaged backgrounds in achieving their potential.  Guidance counselling is an entitlement of all, and not a luxury for only those who can afford it; and we hope that the urgent matters coming from these findings will be addressed and rectified, and guidance counselling fully restored.  The IGC’s objective is for full restoration of ex-quota ring-fenced hours for guidance counselling, to the pre-Budget 2012 position, so as to ensure a dedicated fit-for-purpose service in available in all second level schools, colleges of further education and adult education throughout the country, by the time we undertake our next audit later this year.

Betty McLaughlin                                Eddie McGrath
National President                               Vice-President
Institute of Guidance Counsellors        Institute of Guidance Counsellors