School counsellors call for more funding for increased staffing as demand surges post-lockdown

Source: 1News

Secondary school counsellors and are calling for an increase in Government funding to hire more staff over worries their workload will continue growing as students return with concerns stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic. 

It comes as a first-of-its kind national study showed the secondary school counselling workforce was struggling with increased demand. 

The study by the Ministry of Education and Association of Counsellors found counselling significantly improved students’ wellbeing regardless of gender and ethnicity.

However, it also showed average staffing levels meant there was one counsellor to every 668 students. The recommended level is one counsellor to every 400 students.

Margaret Wheeler, a Hillmorton High School counsellor, said students were coming to her with concerns about their families.

“Concerns about the possibility of their parents separating, about the fighting that's been going during lockdown,” she said.

Ms Wheeler said she hoped the sturdy would be acknowledged and more staff could be hired to provide immediate services students required.

She said she was worried they “don't have enough time to do the treatment required with the number of students who have serious problems”.

In Horowhenua College, they’ve re-launched a confidential online form to contact the school counsellor.

“The pressures on home life have impacted the wellbeing of students,” Head Boy Jamie Harper said.

Head Girl Tonga Ngaluafe said it was great to be able to talk to someone at school confidentially. 

Horowhenua College counsellor Sancia Duncan said “there’s always a huge waitlist. That’s the reality of it.”

“We are early days with seeing the impact of Covid-19,” Ms Duncan said.

“But this week, it certainly has become apparent that it's having an impact on our students.”

NZ Association of Counsellors president Christine Macfarlane said she had also been hearing from school counsellors an increase in demand.

“We anticipate that’s going to go on.”

The associate Education Minister Tracey Martin had been looking into counselling in schools, but could not be reached for comment.