This week’s announcement of $10.3 million towards counselling in 141 schools across Aotearoa New Zealand over this year and next is being applauded by principals and the country’s largest teaching union.
“It is very encouraging to see this announcement, especially after the events of the last two years,” says Liam Rutherford, President of NZEI Te Riu Roa.
“Principals across the motu will be applauding the Government’s decision to fund 90 counselling staff for 141 primary, intermediate and area schools,” said Perry Rush, President of the New Zealand Principals’ Federation.
Principals have been advocating for counsellors in schools to address the growing mental health and wellbeing issues for young people, which have existed for a long time and made worse by COVID-19.
“NZPF has lobbied for the past two years to establish counsellors in primary schools,” said Rush. “To feel comfortable at school and to be successful in their learning, our young people need to build a relationship with a counsellor they can trust and who can help them rebuild confidence to overcome their fears and anxieties,” Rush said.
“I expect that having counsellors in schools will also have an impact on bullying. Our schools have unacceptable rates of bullying both face to face and through social media,” he added.
Rutherford comments, “The Pūaotanga staffing report released earlier this year highlighted the urgent need to support the mental and emotional health of our tamariki with more staffing of counsellors in the primary sector so we are pleased to see some headway with this.”
“We know that educators are extremely stretched for time and that a big part of their work is supporting tamariki and their whānau so having more resource for counselling benefits everyone,” he added.
NZPF surveyed principals last year on the extent of behavioural issues and bullying in their schools and reported the findings to Minister of Education, Chris Hipkins and Associate Minister of Education, Jan Tinetti.
“I am delighted that Ministers have listened to our principals and acted on their recommendation for counsellors in primary, intermediate and area schools,” Rush said.
“Covid-19 has created huge challenges in education but it has also created an opportunity for us to build better in the sector. As we move forward let’s continue to invest in tamariki, whānau and the wider community.”