School counsellor staffing
Conference expresses its concern about current shortages of school counsellors. Evidence provided by the DET indicates that this situation will not improve for the next four years. Indeed, information collected by the Federation in its own survey of school counsellor members suggests it will worsen.
School counsellors play a vital role in the education of young people. Current school counsellor staffing allocations to schools are inadequate, especially in Priority Schools Funding Program (PSFP) schools, schools with support classes and Schools for Specific Purposes (SSPs), and rural and isolated schools.
In view of the increasing burden of social welfare issues on schools, teachers and young people, Conference calls on the DET and Government to increase counsellor numbers to at least one district school counsellor per 800 students.
In view of the increased need for school counsellors and the current shortages Conference endorses negotiations between the Federation and the Department to develop strategies to increase the recruitment, supply and retention of school counsellors.
Conference recognises that such strategies will need to be medium and long term as well as short term strategies to address the current crisis in school counsellor staffing.
Underpinning these negotiations there must be recognition of the fact that school counsellors are teachers and that their teaching qualifications are an essential foundation for their work as school counsellors.
Conference recognises, however, that there have been changes in the nature of demands placed on school counsellors. In particular there has been an increase in paperwork and assessments associated with the integration of students with special needs, and the implementation of requirements of the Special Education Handbook in relation to students enrolled in special education units and SSPs. This has reduced the amount of time that counsellors have available for individual counselling of students and involvement in essential school programs and initiatives for student welfare. In many instances it is difficult for school counsellors to have time to liaise effectively with other teachers.
Further, Conference recognises that these changes have contributed to a decline in satisfaction and a decline in morale of school counsellors, leading to problems with recruitment and retention. Strategies to be negotiated with the DET include:
- The creation of an accurate and detailed data base of school counsellors available to work on a casual basis and a strategy to ensure this information is made available to all schools.
- Strategies to encourage retiring or resigning school counsellors to make themselves available for casual relief and temporary employment.
- Strategies to encourage permanent, temporary and casual school counsellors to take up appointments in country districts with appropriate compensation and entitlements.
- Strategies to increase the availability of permanent part-time employment for school counsellors.
- Strategies to develop agreed and more flexible models of school counsellor training.
- Strategies to provide opportunities for school counsellors seeking promotion to remain in school counselling.
- Strategies to identify work currently being done by school counsellors which could more appropriately be done by others, for example district based staff.
- Strategies for mentoring of new school counsellors as part of an induction process.
- Strategies for adequate ongoing clinical supervision and appropriate professional development for all school counsellors and district guidance officers.
- Provision of a specially designated "school counsellor office" in each counsellor base school, and an interview room in each school for use by the school counsellor on his/her visit.
- Strategies to encourage current classroom teachers to retrain to gain counsellor qualifications.
- To review allowances and travelling conditions for school counsellors and district guidance officers (DGOs).
- To review the workload of school counsellors and DGOs by DET as a matter of urgency.
- To investigate the selection process for school counsellors and the criteria used in this selection process.
1. At the commencement of term 3, all members who are school counsellors and district guidance officers are to be directed not to cover vacant districts by taking on additional workload. The exception will be in the event of a critical incident.
2. Material is to be provided to schools to assist them in informing local communities, members of parliament and the Minister of the impact of school counsellor vacancies on our schools, and our students.