This is a guest post by Jane Osbourne, school Counsellor of 24 years.
This post continues the dialogue on the education crisis in BC. If you want to read more, click HERE.
With the steady erosion of education funding many have heard of the loss of “specialist teachers”.
These include Librarians, Resource Teachers, and Counsellors.
As a Counsellor I have watched social, emotional, and education issues increase in complexity; with outside community resources being stretched and also under funded, including family support programs and mental health services, more and more pressure has been placed on schools to do more with less.
Counsellors play a key role in the school system and are crucial in helping children with social and emotional needs. Research backs up that these needs must be met for learning to occur. School counsellors support children dealing with such issues as death, divorce, poverty, sexual abuse, physical abuse, trauma, family conflict and family violence. We work with children who have behaviour issues as well as emerging mental-health conditions, including the ever-increasing incidences of depression and anxiety.
During any school day, we diffuse playground conflicts, address bullying, and provide a safe place for children to go when they are unable to cope.
We work with students who are fearful to come to school and those lacking in social skills and a sense of self-worth. We deal with youth contemplating suicide, increasing incidences of self harm, and the explosion in issues connected with social media and student use of technology.
In addition many counsellors are centrally involved in the scheduling of student course schedules and post secondary advising.
In the school district of New Westminster there was the equivalent of 5.9 full time positions to cover 11 schools and a population of over 3,800 students. Although already stretched at that level, the district was faced with balancing its budget and made massive cuts last year, resulting in a reduction to 1.8 FTE positions for counselling. However, our school district is not alone.
As the government promotes initiatives to reduce bullying I wonder who exactly is going to implement such programs.
When a student is in crisis or contemplating suicide, or needing to talk with a trusted adult about sexual orientation or gender identity, I wonder where they will get the support they need.
Next year the middle school I work at will face some classes of over 30 students. The number of special needs students is projected to increase, not including those “grey area” students with learning and social/emotional issues not identified in government criteria. We have one full-time Resource Teacher at our school of over 600 kids and part of a second Resource Teacher who runs between multiple schools.
We have less than we had before and that lack of funding has been going on for years. We are failing our kids in not resourcing the public education system adequately. We must insist that the government make the well-being, development, and education of our kids the highest priority…it is the most important investment we can make.
Jane Osborne has been a Counsellor with the New Westminster School District for 24 years, working with youth alternate programs, adult education, and middle school students.