LETTER TO THE EDITOR
I am responding to a decision by the Department of Education to remove current School-Based Counsellors from their schools.
These counsellors were based in their schools and provided ongoing, one-on-one services to students at their school.
School Counsellors operated broadly across prevention, early and complex intervention levels, including referrals.
Early identification of risks in children offers a great potential for improving health, and social outcomes. Schools need to be effective gateways for students and their families to access help.
The core function of a school counselling service is to promote social and emotional wellbeing, with a strong focus on prevention. This is critical for student engagement in schooling.
The Department of Education has implemented a new model, a ‘triage model ‘- where schools are required to consult with a contact person in the Mitchell Centre, with their request for a counselling service for a student.
The contact person will then confirm if the student is eligible for counselling support and advise what the next steps are for the school in requesting support.
NTCOGSO does not accept that a prevention model, which includes identifying risks to children, should be taken out of schools and centralised.
The NSW Suicide Prevention Strategy 2010-2015 highlighted schools as a critical location in identifying risks to children and providing pathways to care and support.
Our students are deeply concerned at this decision and implore the Department of Education to consider the rising level of youth mental health issues and suicides.
Over the years the department has recruited and been unable to retain many school-based counsellors. We need to ask why; why are so many counsellors moving to non-government schools or other departments?
Why isn’t the NT Department of Education an employer of choice for counsellors?
The few counsellors that remain, now rotate through several schools and only on certain days. On days they are not visiting, there is no trusted counsellor for our children to confide in and seek support from.
Tabby Fudge, president of the Northern Territory Council of Government School Organisations (NTCOGSO).
IMAGE at top from the NTCOGSO 2021/22 annual report.