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We want counsellors in every school, says charity

Britain's biggest children's charity wants England to follow Wales and have an on-site counsellor in every school. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) believes pupils are more likely to ask for help if a specialist is available at school.

This call follows the announcement that the Welsh Assembly is going to provide pound;6.5 million over three years to ensure all its local authorities provide counselling services in secondaries.

Work to help Year 6 pupils with transition to secondary school is also being considered.

Emily Arkell, NSPCC policy adviser, insists that such services are vital for pupils. "Schools are supposed to provide a safe learning environment. and school counselling is one way of doing that," she said.

"When children are going through physical and emotional changes, it's helpful to have someone to talk to in a confidential space, who listens to them and advises them."

The benefits are academic as well as emotional. "A lot of emphasis is locked on standards and attainment," said Ms Arkell. "But if you have kids with problems, that's going to feed into their ability to learn and behave in lessons."

Many people also believe that readily available counselling can help prevent the escalation of teenage depression, leading to events such as the recent spate of suicides at Bridgend, South Wales.

Stephanie Evans, who manages a team of counsellors working in 14 schools in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, said having them on site was particularly effective.

"Kids are reluctant to be identified as different or needing special help," she said. "But if counselling services are in schools, children are much more likely to use them."

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