By: Stephanie Arthur-Worsop

School counsellor Ben Teina-Kore Curtis is thrilled to see the Government’s commitment to putting counsellors in primary schools. Photo/file

A move to address child mental health and behavioural issues by piloting counsellors in primary schools has been dubbed “the best thing the Government has done” by a Rotorua counsellor.

The move was revealed in the Labour-New Zealand First coalition policy announcement this week.

Other education announcements included promises to restore funding for gifted students, restart Te Kotahitanga teacher professional development and provide free driver training for all secondary school students.

Rotorua Intermediate School counsellor Ben Teina-Kore Curtis said the commitment to put counsellors in primary schools was a “welcome surprise”.

“This is the best thing the Government has done. Promising to implement counsellors in primary schools will move us from our current reactive approach to child mental health to a proactive approach.

“During her campaign Jacinda [Ardern] said it was a goal of hers and I think it’s really important Government is now looking at that.

“By addressing the issues when they first begin at primary schools, it will stop them reaching crisis level when the child reaches intermediate or high school.

“It’s really quite scary how many young people we are seeing who are thinking like adults and are trying to deal with adult issues.”

Rotorua Principals Association president and Rotokawa School principal Briar Stewart said there was “such a big need” for counsellors in primary schools.

“This is an acknowledgement of the difficulties our children face and we are pleased to see children being made a priority.”

Policy announcement aside, Ms Stewart said it would be interesting to see what the education budget would look like.

“We’ve been running on a frozen budget so I hope it is more realistic and we will be able to run our schools without relying on extra funding.”

Free driver training for secondary students was also welcomed by principals, though one said he hoped it would be properly resourced and staffed.

John Paul College principal Patrick Walsh said it was a good idea on the basis that a lot of students needed their licence for part-time jobs.

Rotorua Lakes High School principal Bruce Walker said his school was already providing students with driving lessons through the Gateway programme.

“I still believe teaching teenagers to drive is a parental responsibility but those who do it through Gateway are often those without parental support.

“If the Government wishes to implement it for all students, my only wish is that it is fully funded, properly resourced and staffed by appropriate people.”

Source: Rotorua Daily Post

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