As part of its claim the PPTA expressed that it would like to see a working party set up to look at staffing levels of school counsellors, however this has not been included in the Ministry of Education’s offer to secondary school teachers, that included a 9.3 per cent pay increase. PPTA members voted to reject the Ministry’s offer at the PPTA annual conference in Wellington last week.

PPTA president Jack Boyle says he is disappointed not to see the inclusion of a working party in the Ministry’s offer.

“The negotiations provide a valuable opportunity for the government to show a genuine commitment to the mental health of young people,” he says.

“School guidance counsellors are a vital part of a school community and provide a much needed service to thousands of children every year.

“As a country, we need the right number of school counsellors to support every child who needs counselling support,” says Boyle.

However, some counsellors are sceptical about the effectiveness of another working party. A working party with representation from the New Zealand Association of Counsellors (NZAC) and the PPTA was set up following the 2013 ERO review of guidance and counselling.

Christchurch school counsellor Sarah Maindonald, who was part of an earlier working party to look at staffing ratios and other ERO recommendations, said the suggestion of yet another working party had left her “fairly cynical”.

One thing the earlier working party achieved was the creation of the guidelines Te Pakiaka Tangata Strengthening Student Wellbeing for Success, which aim to help secondary schools and wharekura understand their roles, expectations and legal requirements of providing pastoral care.

But during its three-year stint the working party was unable to bring about any improvement to staffing levels, said Maindonald.

“Addressing staffing ratios was the number one recommendation from the ERO review. Yet Cabinet in the previous government would not entertain it, despite both ERO and the working party raising it repeatedly.”

Counsellors had been “optimistic” things would change under the new Government, she added.

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