AS A teacher involved in counselling, I listened with great interest to the health minister John Hutton on a recent BBC news broadcast commenting on young people and mental health.
There are great benefits to pupils in having someone to talk to on site. Some years ago, of course, this was acknowledged and teachers could be seconded onto counselling courses. Sadly, this was yet another casualty of the squeeze in the education budget.
At present, I see pupils aged 11 to 18 with a very wide range of problems. Some are severely or clinically depressed, some may be suicidal, some are experiencing brief periods of depression resulting from traumatic experiences. And some just need someone to listen to them or a quiet place to escape to.
The school at which I work is successful so it does not have "special" problems - all schools would benefit from having a counsellor but cannot afford one.
The headteacher and I are approaching various bodies for funding. We aim to extend the counselling to involve groups of pupils who are disaffected with school, who may be truanting, have above-average rates of absenteeism, or exhibit behavioural difficulties. This work could reduce the levels of absenteeism and exclusion, and raise academic achievement - all keystones of the Government's education policy.
What, if anything, is the Government prepared to do to support such initiatives?
Chris Gothard 68 Chiltern Crescent Earley, Reading