EDUCATION: Counselling in schools continues to make positive progress

By Aileen Maclennan

Argyll and Bute Council has made significant progress in recruiting and delivering a counselling service for children and young people in the area.

The council was awarded £286,000 through the Scottish Government’s 10 year Mental Health Strategy to provide the service over the last 12 months, and a further £377,000 has been allocated for each of the next three years.

As a result, a team leader was appointed at the beginning of December and 6.5 FTE experienced counsellors have been in post since 11 January. The Argyll and Bute Alcohol and Drug Partnership has also provided funding for an additional post to ensure there is a dedicated resource for primary school children aged 10 years an up.

The Scottish Government’s 10 year Mental Health Strategy includes a number of recommendations that have already been taken on board in Argyll and Bute. For example:

  • The development of Our Children, Their Mental Health;
  • Training and implementation support for Early Learning and Childcare settings and primary schools on the Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies (PATHS) curriculum;
  • And, the delivery of a Nurture and Relationships Strategy across educational establishments.

Councillor Yvonne McNeilly, pictured right, Policy Lead for Education in Argyll and Bute, welcomed the progress:

“The positive mental health and emotional wellbeing of our children and young people is a priority for Argyll and Bute Council and this funding has enabled us to provide valuable resources where they are needed most, whilst complementing existing services.

“The last 12 months have been particularly challenging for our school pupils, so it’s more important than ever that we help them in any way we can. Providing support at an early stage can have a significant impact on preventing problems from arising in the future and can lead to improvements in attainment, attendance and behaviour, as well as happier, more confident pupils.

“Whilst it is extremely encouraging to see the positive progress has already been made in the area in terms of these support services, there is still a lot of work to be done and we are committed to ensuring that every child and young person has access to the help they need without any fear of judgement.”

mEANWHILE, Argyll and Bute Council is committed to ensuring that the rights of children and their families continue to be heard.

At a meeting of today’s Community Services Committee, members heard about the work already carried out by the council over the last three years to give children and young people a voice, and its plans to expand this.

During the last three years, Argyll and Bute Council has:

  • Sought and listened to the voices of children and young people;
  • Consulted with children and young people on policies and strategies relevant to their lives: education, health, social care, housing, environment and leisure;
  • Carried out Children’s Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessments (CRWIAs) to ensure children’s rights are a key consideration in policy and strategic planning;
  • Were guided in all work with and for children and young people by GIRFEC Wellbeing Indicators and the articles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC)

These actions have been a great success, but the local authority wants to build on this and the Argyll and Bute Children’s Rights Report 2020 – 2023 has been developed as a result.

Artwork by Jane Heaney

This report focuses on:

  • Ensuring CRWIAs are consistent and rigorous;
  • Ensuring children’s voices are central to the development of services;
  • Implementing highly effective multi-agency working for maximum impact on children’s lives;
  • Further support children with a parent in custody;
  • Increased focus on and teaching of children’s and human rights in the curriculum, and further advance the Rights Respecting School Award programme;
  • Further develop the Automated Benefits approach (for example, in relation to free school meals and school clothing grants);
  • Maximise access to Argyll and Bute’s facilities and amenities which promote and encourage wellbeing.

The report will be taken forward within the Northern Alliance Regional Improvement Collaborative and at local authority level.

Argyll and Bute’s Policy Lead for Education, Councillor McNeilly, said: “All children deserve to have a positive childhood, and experience life to the fullest, and we are committed to achieving this for every young person in Argyll and Bute.

“There is clear evidence that a rights-based approach to education has positive outcomes for young people. Not only does it improve their well-being and self-esteem, it increases empathy and understanding among pupils and leads to better behaviour in class.

 “We are dedicated to helping our young people to flourish, to realise their full potential, and ensure they are aware of their rights, and we will continue to work hard to make sure we achieve this.”

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