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Talk to teachers? They'd rather not

Counsellors preferred for 'embarassing' problems. Nicola Porter reports

Most children would talk to their teacher about their personal problems if they were not so busy, research suggests.

A random sample of 1,500 pupils in 18 Welsh local authorities were quizzed over plans to introduce a national children's counselling service. Although they believed they could approach their teachers, many said they would rather talk to a person from outside school about more "embarrassing" issues.

Children's commissioner Peter Clarke recommended the introduction of a national independent counselling service for children in his landmark Clywch report, published last year. He believes the availability of independent counsellors will encourage bullied or abused children to seek help and talk to a trustworthy adult.

It follows his lengthy investigations into why sex abuse allegations made against drama teacher John Owen took so long to emerge. Mr Owen, a former teacher at Ysgol Gyfun Rhydfelen in Pontypridd, killed himself in 2001, days before facing accusations in court.

Mr Clarke has been critical of delays in implementing recommendations in his report, especially concerning child protection.

Children surveyed by Red Kite Consultancy for the Assembly government said they believed it would be a good idea to have a school counsellor, but they had reservations about one-to-one sessions.

Younger children in particular raised concerns about talking to a stranger.

Others said they felt everyone should be made to see a counsellor so those seeking help were not singled out. Jane Davidson, minister for education and lifelong learning, has pledged pound;200,000 to kick-start pilot schemes next year.

Assembly funding was also given to local authority-run children's and young people's partnerships to consult children on the handling of abuse complaints, support for those making complaints, and the provision of counselling services within education.

In her report to the Assembly's education and lifelong learning committee this week, Ms Davidson said further research would look at whether counselling should be school or community-based, how independent it should be and how much it will cost.

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