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Counselling helps to improve schoolwork

An innovative youth counselling service piloted in East Renfrewshire's seven secondary schools has had its greatest impact on classroom learning.

The authority's first suicide and self-harm policy for pupils is to be launched today (Friday), based on the success of the counselling service, and timed "just as exam pressures begin to bite".

The service has been working with secondary pupils since 2003 as a pilot initiative and will now be funded as a mainstream service following a positive evaluation by Professor Mick Cooper of Strathclyde University.

The service has been run by the council and Renfrewshire Association for Mental Health and funded by the Scottish Executive's Changing Children's Services Fund and the Choose Life Initiative.

Professor Cooper said: "Many (pupils) are affected by issues such as parents splitting up or their personal relationship with a parent and become preoccupied by those issues in class and fall behind in classwork.

The youth counsellor can help relieve those pressures and clear the way for the young person to concentrate again on schoolwork."

Family issues were the most common reason for referral for girls, with anger issues coming top for boys. The highest number of referrals were among S4 pupils, followed by S3 and S2. Teachers, behavioural support staff and guidance teachers were the most common source of referral.

When asked what young people found particularly useful, by far the highest response was "talking and being listened to".

In next week's TES Scotland, Mike Hough and Susan McGinnis from Strathclyde University will write about the work done by the education faculty's counselling unit in 22 secondary schools in East Dunbartonshire, Glasgow and Argyll and Bute.

"Post-McCrone, schools have fewer pupil support staff and, while they continue to offer exceptionally good quality pastoral care, the pressure on them is relentless," they say.

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