Call to rectify “patchy” school counselling services

Dr Mhairi Thurston

A psychology expert has called for school-based counselling services to be available for all children across Scotland.

Dr Mhairi Thurston , from Abertay University, said there appears to be a “growing appetite” for the development of joined up approach to psychological services for children and young people in Scotland, linking school counselling provision, educational psychology and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAHMS).

She presented a case this week for increased access to school counselling at the ‘Children and Young People’s Mental Health: Taking a Cross-Sectoral Approach’ conference in Edinburgh.

According to a recent report commissioned by Scottish Association of Mental Health, three children in every classroom in Scotland will experience mental health problems by the time they are 16.

The Scottish government has committed to review services for counselling children in the new Mental Health Strategy 2017-2027.

Dr Thurston said it is time to take a wholesale and in-depth look at the issue.

She added: “School-based counselling provision in Scotland is currently patchy, with 14 councils having no formal school-based counselling services. This means that nearly a quarter of a million pupils have no access to this vital service. Scotland lags behind both Wales and Northern Ireland who have Government funded school based counselling provision with a counsellor in every school.

“There is a consensus emerging about the compelling benefits of school counselling. In Wales, targeted school based interventions have led to improvements in pupil well-being and mental health, reducing levels of exclusion by 31 per cent and increasing pupil attainment (Banjeree et al,2014).

Dr Thurston co-presented at the Edinburgh conference with Edith Bell, director of the largest school based counselling provider in Northern Ireland, who provided a blueprint of good practice and gave guidance on the implementation of national school based counselling provision.

The conference examined the current policy landscape and latest developments surrounding children and young people’s mental health in Scotland, including key issues and challenges facing schools and colleges, children’s services and the NHS and local authorities.

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