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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Education staff responsible for guidance in early childhood and school education


10.Management and other education staff

10.3Education staff responsible for guidance in early childhood and school education

Last update: 27 November 2023

Education Staff Responsible for Guidance in Early Childhood and School Education   

Early Childhood

This is not applicable to early childhood education in Ireland.

School Education

Guidance counsellors in post-primary schools and in further education are qualified teachers with additional training and qualifications in guidance.

Guidance in post-primary schools within the lifelong context is aimed at students from the ages of 12 to 18 and relates to programmes from levels 3 to 5 on the National Framework of Qualifications. The Guidance programme is provided to both junior and senior cycle students.

Guidance is an entitlement in post-primary schools as per the Education Act (1998) Section 9 which states that a school shall use its available resources ... to (c) ensure that students have access to appropriate guidance to assist them in their educational and career choices.

Guidance in post-primary schools is a whole school activity that is integrated into all school programmes.  Guidance in schools refers to a range of learning experiences provided in developmental sequence, that assist students to develop self-management skills which will lead to effective choices and decisions about their lives. It encompasses the three separate, but interlinked areas of personal and social development, educational guidance and career guidance.

The document Guidelines for Second-Level Schools on the Implications of Section 9(c) of the Education Act 1998, Relating to Students' Access to Appropriate Guidance (DES, 2005), indicates that a guidance programme should be part of a school plan and identifies the central role of the guidance counsellor as well as the important contribution of different members of staff to the role of guidance. The Whole School Guidance Plan for the school should take account of the needs of all Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate students. Guidance also forms part of the curriculum in the Transition Year Programme (TYP), the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) and Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP).

The Whole School Guidance Plan

Guidance is a whole school activity where each school collaboratively develops a whole-school school guidance plan as a means of supporting the needs of students. It is important that all members of staff fully recognise and ensure that guidance permeates every aspect of school life.

Guidance plans should outline the school’s approach to guidance generally and how students can be supported and assisted in making choices and successful transitions in the personal and social, educational and career areas. The guidance plan should also distinguish between the competencies available within the school to support a student in situations where referral to the Health services or advising parents on the need to consider individual referral to a medical professional is warranted.

Schools should consider how best to align resource allocation with the objectives of the Guidance Plan. The board of management is expected to exercise oversight by reviewing and updating the Plan at regular intervals. Specifically, the board should consider the plan and how it is resourced before it adopts the plan and makes it available to all staff, parents and students.

In a recent circular, the Minister requires schools to adjust their Guidance Plans to meet Action 9.1 in the Action Plan for Education 2017 which states that the Guidance Plan should “include specified time allocation for guidance counsellors to be available for one-to-one guidance counselling and time allocation for the role in supporting the organisation and work of the Student Support Team”.

Currently, full-time and part-time training courses for guidance counsellors are of one and two years’ duration, respectively. There are no specialist guidance personnel at primary level although the framework for lifelong guidance (2007) outlined by the National Guidance Forum envisages the provision of guidance and the development of appropriate emotional, social, learning and career development in primary schools. Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) is a subject provided as part of the integrated primary school curriculum.

The National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) was formally established as an executive agency of the Department of Education and Science (DES) in September 1999.  NEPS psychologists work with both primary and post-primary schools and they are concerned with learning, behaviour, social and emotional development, having particular regard for children with special educational needs. Each psychologist is assigned to a group of schools. NEPS psychologists specialise in working with the school community. They work in partnership with teachers, parents and children in identifying educational needs. They offer a range of services aimed at meeting these needs, for example, supporting individual students (through consultation and assessment), special projects and research.

NEPS is organised into ten regions roughly corresponding to the Health Board Regions. This is to facilitate collaboration with colleagues in the clinical services. There are locally based offices also. NEPS is a school-based service to both primary and post primary schools and referrals are prioritised at school level through a consultative process.

When an assessment is deemed necessary following this process, the NEPS psychologist in the school setting generally carries it out in the school setting.  Sometimes onward referral to other agencies/services may be indicated.

In common with many other psychological services and best international practice, NEPS has adopted a consultative model of service.  The focus is on empowering teachers to intervene effectively with pupils whose needs range from mild to severe and transient to enduring. 

Psychologists use a problem solving and solution focused consultative approach to maximise positive outcomes for these pupils.  NEPS encourages schools to use a continuum based assessment and intervention process whereby each school takes responsibility for initial assessment, educational planning and remedial intervention for pupils with learning, emotional or behavioural difficulties. 

Teachers may consult their NEPS psychologist should they need to at this stage in the process.  Only in the event of a failure to make reasonable progress, in spite of the school's best efforts in consultation with NEPS, will the psychologist become involved with an individual child for intensive intervention.

This process has been advised and communicated to schools through various guidelines and resource materials. Student Support Files allow schools to insert their own logo and use and adapt the format provided. The file offers a flexible, generic ‘Support Plan’ and ‘Support Review Record’ that can be used at all levels of support.