New counsellors to come on board

Government is seeking to introduce school counsellors to the educational system to aid guidance counsellors in their duties.  

Minister of Education, Technological and Vocational Training, Santia Bradshaw said that with immense tragedy experienced in our schools in recent times the ministry is looking to how best to respond to these challenges. Speaking during the debate on the Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure for the 2020/2021 financial year at the Worthing Corporate Centre, where Parliament is being temporarily being convened, Minister Bradshaw said they have had to relook the intention to place additional guidance counsellors in secondary schools.

When we started out thinking about guidance counsellors and adding just that additional support for the existing guidance counsellor, who really is managing not 200 or 300 but in some cases 800 or 900 students on the roll; and out of that number you are having sometimes  20, 30 per cent of students having to face the guidance counsellor at some point for some type of intervention, she said.

Minister Bradshaw explained that particularly after the events at Frederick Smith Secondary School, which saw one student lose his life, they looked at retitling the new position to that of school counsellors. She explained that while the existing guidance counsellors needed the additional support, they also recognised that there was a need for someone who could focus on assessments, home visits, share the workload and also capture information to assist the Student Support Services Department within the ministry. Such information, she said, would help the senior psychologist within that department to develop a database that identifies the challenges across the system.

No more would it be a simple case of waiting until something happens to identify that a child was exhibiting symptoms from primary school and then entered secondary school and we wait until that headline hits us in the paper, but rather that we are proactive in identifying through the support systems now, a whole-school-approach to interventions which did not exist before. We are trying to break down what they call the silos, trying to break down the miscommunication where some people may not quite appreciate that the sharing of information is critical to being able to get to the root cause of the problem, and we have been working assiduously to try to deal with that, she indicated.

With that in mind, she said the new school counsellors will be employed by the ministry, but be stationed at the schools, working closely with the existing guidance counsellors, the principal, the Student Support Services Department and the various support entities that come into the institutions such as Supreme Counselling for Personal Development.

We have focused on building out the support services team beyond the Ministry of Education, but looking at all of the additional support personnel who can be involved in the system, in helping us, but mainly to be able to capture data. There is no point inviting an entity to come into the school to talk to children and when they unravel behavioural problems, that we are not able to know as a ministry what interventions may be necessary. Mentoring is fine, talking to a student is fine, but often there are some deep-rooted issues that as a ministry we need to be able to provide that support and that counselling immediately to help to address, Bradshaw stated.

She said in addition to these new counsellors, there will also be safety officers and social workers deployed into the schools. Her comments came as she said have had to re-advertise the post of school counsellor, and expect that by the start of the new term all the various positions will be filled. (JRT)

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