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More secondary school students seeking help with problems

10 December 2013

Guidance and counselling review shows more secondary school students seeking help, with more complex problems - new ERO report

Growing numbers of secondary school students are seeking help with problems and their needs are increasingly complex, according to a new report released today by the Education Review Office (ERO).

The report, Improving Guidance and Counselling for Students in Secondary Schools, is part of the Prime Minister’s Youth Mental Health Project which aims to improve the mental health of young people aged 12 to 19 years.

The findings in the report are based on visits by ERO to 49 secondary schools and wharekura this year, and a survey of 671 students at these schools.

Stephanie Greaney, Evaluation Services Manager for ERO, says one of the key findings is that although guidance and counselling staff in many of the schools and wharekura had the professional ability to help students, their increasing workload made it difficult for them to fully respond. The complex nature of some of the students’ problems compounded the situation.

ERO found that just under two-thirds of the schools were providing guidance and counselling well, while just over one-third needed to improve their guidance and counselling provision.

“Research shows that student wellbeing is critical for student achievement. In this evaluation we found that the varying importance which schools and wharekura placed on the role of guidance and counselling contributed to the variable quality of service we saw provided.”

“In many of the schools and wharekura the guidance and counselling was of a good or very good standard, with leaders placing high value on it and its importance for student wellbeing and learning. Other schools, however, did not make it a priority and this was reflected in the quality of help provided,” says Mrs Greaney.

“Many schools undertook little or no self review of their guidance and counselling provision, so school leaders didn’t know if it was meeting the needs of students.”

ERO has recommended that the Ministry of Education provides clear guidance and support to schools and wharekura. This includes providing professional learning and development for school leaders and people working in guidance and counselling roles.

Funding is also covered in the report. ERO says it is concerned about the lack of accountability for the use of funding provided for guidance staffing in some schools and wharekura. It says: ‘Although some were adding considerable additional resources to provide guidance and counselling for students, others were not able to account for how they spent the funding they received.’

ERO has recommended that the Ministry of Education look at the formula used to fund schools and wharekura for guidance staffing.

For schools and wharekura, ERO recommends that they review the effectiveness of their guidance and counselling using a series of questions included in the report.

The report covers in detail what good guidance and counselling provision looks like drawing on schools and wharekura in the sample. Features of these schools/wharekura included: strong leadership, a wide variety of roles being included in the process, high self referral rates by students, a good range of preventative programmes, good communication between the people involved, and an understanding by the school/wharekura that student wellbeing is critical to achievement and learning.

Other findings in the report include:

· The key problems students faced included those arising from household poverty, poor mental health, family dysfunction, bullying, relationships, and drugs and alcohol.

· Overall, students were positive about guidance and counselling in their school and most had someone they could talk to for support.

· The student survey findings showed that students were most likely to seek help first from a parent or caregiver, and then from a guidance counsellor. Deans or friends were the next most likely.

· More than two-thirds of students said it was socially acceptable at their school to see someone about guidance and counselling.


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