Almost 800 post-primary pupils in Northern Ireland on counselling waiting list

As reported by BBC news, almost 800 post-primary school pupils in Northern Ireland are on a waiting list to receive counselling

Almost 800 pupils were on the waiting list on 31 December 2019 but the education minister said many of the young people were expected to have started counselling in January 2020.

The figure was revealed by the Department for Education (DE) in response to an assembly question by the DUP MLA Joanne Bunting. Bunting had asked the education minister Peter Weir how many post-primary pupils were on a waiting list for counselling services. In a just-published response, the minister said that there were 798 post-primary pupils awaiting counselling – 767 in mainstream schools and 31 in special schools.

A new independent counselling service for post-primary schools was introduced in September 2019 at a cost of £23.6m over five years. Primary schools have to arrange and pay for their own counselling.

In schools with 500 to 999 pupils, five pupils a week could receive a counselling session, while that rose to eight pupils a week in schools with pupils from 1,000 to 1,499 pupils. In the largest schools, with more than 1,500 pupils, 10 pupils could receive a counselling session each week in addition to a drop-in session lasting one hour.

One primary school teacher who contacted BBC News NI said their school paid for a professional counsellor to work with pupils as young as six.

“At the minute we have four children seeing her, usually for six one-hour sessions,” they said.

“We’ve had six or eight pupils go through counselling this academic year and have seen positive results but the children’s needs are getting more complex.

“Parents have also made positive comments about meeting a professional relatively quickly after raising concerns.”

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