School counsellors being undermined – teachers

by Robert Ballantyne02 Mar 2016

NSW teachers are taking the state government to the Industrial Relations Commission, accusing it of “downgrading” school counsellors’ qualifications.

The New South Wales Teachers Federation (NSWTF) president, Maurie Mulheron, told the ABC the union had been ignored, despite raising its concerns with the state government.

“The Federation has attempted to negotiate with the department for some time and we have not got anywhere,” Mulheron said.

“They have moved unilaterally without any negotiated settlement, so we're taking the department to the Industrial Relations Commission saying they are in breach of the award.”

He said the Industrial Relations Commission had now been notified of a dispute.

Previously school counsellors in NSW have required dual qualifications in teaching and psychology.

However, the NSW Education Department has now advertised for “school psychologists” without requiring teaching qualifications.

NSW Education Minister, Adrian Piccoli, said the change followed through on a commitment made during last year’s election to recruit more than 230 new counsellors in the state’s schools.

“It shouldn't be a requirement that a psychologist also has a teaching degree and is required currently to have taught for a year,” Piccoli said.

“That just simply means it's impossible to recruit schools counsellors and psychologists into our schools. There is a desperate need for more counsellors and there are great people out there who don't have teaching degrees  psychiatrists, psychologists.

“We want them working in education.”
 
However, Mulheron said that in order to do the job effectively, both qualifications were needed.
 
“These people work with principals and deputies and fellow teachers. They work on the child's literacy, numeracy and learning needs, as well as their emotional wellbeing,” he said.
 
“I was a principal for 10 years and the school counsellor was invaluable in that role, working alongside teachers as a fellow teacher.”
 

COMMENTS

  • by Concerned Clinical Psychologist 20/03/2016 3:02:18 PM

    I'm Clinical Psychologist and work as a School Counsellor in a Private School. Mr Piccoli's comments about Mr Mulherone prioritising control and power of the Teacher Union over student emotional wellbeing is right on the mark, and I am appalled by Mr Mulherone's efforts to stall Government's plans to address workforce shortage to provide our kids with much needed mental health support. Adolescent mental health is in a state of crisis right now - there is no time for Teacher Union politics. Mr Mulherone's comments show me he is clearly out of touch with the current climate, and not understanding that we currently loose one young person to suicide every day around Australia. We know from beyondblue research that 1 in 16 young Australians battle depression daily; 1 in 6 suffering from an anxiety disorder daily, 1 in four young Australians meets criteria for a diagnosable mental health disorder, and self-harm is rife. We know 1 in 10 students endorse suicidal ideation at one point throughout their schooling, and youth suicide rates around Australia is now the leading cause of death for young people, having increased by 10% from last year. We need to address task force shortage now; there is no time to waste. All of our kids deserve quality mental health support, from sophisticated mental health professionals who have requisite skills to conduct quality clinical assessments, and formulate comprehensive management plans. Clinicians who have strong diagnostic knowledge, and understanding of best practice clinical guidelines and intervention approaches and clinical experience across diverse settings. If psychologists and psychiatrists are good enough to provide clinical care to our most vulnerable in hospital and government health settings, surely they are good enough to provide our children with quality mental health support within school setting.