The Government is proud to have commenced the recruitment process for four qualified school-based counsellors for the introduction of a dedicated school counselling service. This provision is child and young adult focused and will assist in the holistic development of students across all facets of education.
From September, school pupils in Gibraltar will be able to access counselling. This service aims to give pupils confidence that their needs will be heard and addressed. School-based counselling will complement the range of approaches already available in schools that help to support the health, emotional and social needs of pupils and lead to a healthy school ethos and culture.
With its bespoke Operational Policy, this new service builds on the research and recommendations emanating from the Ministry of Education’s mental health, social and emotional wellbeing project. This document includes standards and guidance for counsellors in Gibraltar schools and the College to enable the delivery of services that are safe, accessible and of a high standard. As services rollout, a process of continuous evaluation that consults pupils as service users will ensure that these evolve in line with changing needs.
Schools that promote the health and well-being of pupils are also more likely to create an effective learning environment. Counselling is a skilled way of helping young people with personal and developmental issues and difficulties. It gives individuals an opportunity to explore, discover and clarify ways to live in a more satisfying and resourceful way. Counselling offers young people the opportunity to increase self-awareness, develop personal resources and an understanding of their own problems, as well as to develop strategies to cope with change.
The counsellor will be aware of and involved in the needs, demands, policies and practices within the school, and be a supportive part of the school community. The counsellor will also be professionally independent, which is particularly important when dealing with complex domestic issues, and will serve as a point of reference for pastoral leads.
Together with the opening of new schools, this is an exciting development in Gibraltar’s Education Revolution. Vast improvements are being made to the teaching and learning environments, and to the practises within these environments, which optimise the holistic development of future Gibraltarian societies.
Formal counselling is only one of a range of services that help to support the health, emotional and social needs of pupils and lead to a healthy school culture. Other elements include emotional literacy programmes, seeking pupils’ views through school councils, structured PSHE programmes, effective pastoral care, education welfare services, advocacy, anti-bullying policies and support for pupils with additional learning needs.
Minister for Education, the Hon Dr John Cortes commented: “A School Counselling Service is long overdue. We are developing this service, and the corresponding policies, with meticulous detail, involving all the relevant professionals across Departments and Agencies, as we have to get this right. Our children need the service, and the teaching profession will now have the support that they have lacked through the years. Teachers in all the schools, the Education Psychologists, and the Department of Education will benefit from the work to be done by this new team.”