Independent Counselling Service for schools
Access to independent professional counselling support is now available for all young people in post-primary schools during difficult and vulnerable periods in their lives.
How counselling can help
Counselling provides support for young people facing personal trauma, bereavement, difficult home circumstances, stress, bullying or abuse. It also contributes to the broader agenda of improving educational outcomes for all pupils by tackling their barriers to learning.
How does the service work?
The one to one support provided conforms to the current best practice and professional standards for school based counselling, specifically in respect of counsellor qualifications, supervision policy and safe working practices.
The Counsellors’ main point of contact will be the Key Contact, who is appointed by the school. The Key Contact may be the designated teacher for child protection, the head of pastoral care or another teacher.
There are three main referral routes - your child can self refer, may be referred by someone from the school or by the parent or carer. The final decision lies with your child as to whether or not they wish to receive counselling.
A minimum amount of counselling time is allocated to those schools which use the service. Ninety eight per cent of post-primary schools are signed up to use the free service.
Schools write to inform you of the availability of the counselling service and at this stage, opportunity is given for you to opt in or out of the service. Most schools to date have used a standard letter to obtain implicit consent from parents.
You will then be given the opportunity to meet the Counsellor both in person (at open nights, school activities) and via school news sheets. If you wish to meet the Counsellor before any issue arises for your child, this can be arranged in the school.
Schools have reported that the availability of the counselling service has been a major boost to their capacity to support pupils.
Delivery of service
The Independent Counselling Service for Schools (ICSS) is provided under contractual arrangements by organisation(s) that have undergone a public tendering process. The service is delivered using standards and protocols based on good counselling practice within the organisational context of the school.
The ICSS has been accessible to all grant-aided post-primary schools that choose to use it since September 2007. The service was extended to pupils of post-primary age in special schools at the start of 2011.
More information including schools responsibilities and practice standards are available in the ICSS Operating Handbook and ICSS Practice Standards.