Counselling scheme is a boon to pupils - report
A groundbreaking school counselling scheme has been highly effective in reducing levels of distress among pupils, according to a report.
Every secondary in Wales now has access to qualified professionals as part of the government's school-based counselling service, which was launched in 2008.
So far pound;8 million has been spent on the service, with a further pound;14.25 million promised over the next three years.
An evaluation published last week reported that heads and teachers noticed improvements in the attainment, attendance and behaviour of pupils who had been helped by the service.
More than 90 per cent of the school staff surveyed said the scheme met the needs of their pupils, and most said it had not affected their own workload.
Almost 8,000 pupils have completed counselling sessions in the last five school terms, with the most frequently presented issues including families, anger, stress and bereavement. Family issues arose more than twice as often as any other.
The majority of pupils were referred to counsellors by school staff, but a higher-than-expected proportion referred themselves.
In the feedback, pupils said it was good to have someone to talk to who could understand their problems and help them become more confident.
Many said they felt more able to cope at school after having counselling and that their behaviour had improved as a result.
However, counsellors reported that some teachers needed educating about the role and importance of the service and that there was a lack of awareness among some staff about its benefits.
The report recommended that local authorities should train school staff to have a better understanding of the service and collect more data to measure its effectiveness.
Behaviour expert Professor Ken Reid, a qualified counsellor who has worked in schools, said the report's findings were encouraging.
"The service has considerable potential to improve behaviour and reduce truancy in schools," said Professor Reid, who led the National Behaviour and Attendance Review (NBAR) for the Welsh Government.
"A lot of pupils are very reluctant to tell their teachers about the things in their lives that are affecting them. I think we have seriously underestimated the impact of family problems on education, not just in terms of behaviour and attendance, but on learning as well."
Professor Reid said there was also an urgent need for counselling services at key stage 2 as part of an early intervention strategy to tackle poor behaviour and attendance.
A primary school scheme is currently being piloted and is due to end in April next year.
A government spokesman said: "We are pleased with the findings of this first stage of the evaluation of our school-based counselling strategy, which shows we are continuing to move in the right direction.
"We look forward to receiving the evaluation's final report in the autumn and will consider the recommendations and continue to lead the way in providing school-based counselling services."
Original headline: Counselling scheme is boon to pupils in distress, report finds