“A major investment of $75.8 million will provide greater access to guidance counsellors to help primary and secondary school students deal with mental health and wellbeing issues,” according to Martin.
This is the first substantial increase in funding to help students in this way since guidance staffing was introduced in the mid-2000s and will provide access to counsellors in schools and from the community sector.
The funding includes $31.8 million over four years to increase large secondary schools’ guidance staffing entitlement, used to employ guidance counsellors and other pastoral care staff. This will result in an increase of around 90 full time equivalent guidance counsellors across these large secondary schools.
“Around 210 schools and kura with over 450 secondary students will be able to employ guidance counselling staff for an additional two days per week from the beginning of 2021.”
A further $44 million over four years will be used to contract local community organisations to provide guidance counselling to both primary and secondary students. Local counselling organisations will deliver these services, starting in 2021, to schools in areas most affected by the economic downturn from COVID-19.
Primary schools are not currently allocated funding for the purpose of employing guidance counsellors, and large secondary schools are currently underfunded in this area.
“Many community organisations have valuable skills in counselling for children and young people impacted by anxiety, stress, depression, and disengagement. This funding will help students access these services, which are in high demand, especially given the impact of COVID-19 on our learners.”
The $75.7 million for more counselling support for learners is part of a wider Government education wellbeing package. The package also includes a $50 million Urgent Response Fund to address the immediate wellbeing needs of learners in early learning, schools and kura arising from COVID-19; $25 million to expand front line mental health and wellbeing services for tertiary students; $16 million for education workforce wellbeing; and $32.8 million in frontline resourcing to support wellbeing, mental health and healthy relationships teaching.