Former Halifax guidance counsellor sounds alarm on counsellor-student ratios

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‘Students are at risk’: Former Halifax guidance counsellor sounds alarm on counsellor-student ratios
A former guidance counsellor from Halifax says the Department of Education needs to readjust the ratio of counsellors to students across Nova Scotia to ensure proper mental health supports – Jun 22, 2017

A former guidance councillor with more than 30 years experience in Halifax says the province desperately needs to reassess their student-guidance counsellor ratio.

The current guidelines from the Department of Education state:

“The recommended maximum ratio of students to guidance counsellor is 500 to 1. This applies to both elementary and secondary schools. For example, a school of 750 students would require a minimum of 1.5 guidance counsellors.”

Trevor Brumwell says that’s not nearly enough.

“It doesn’t make sense. By implementing that 1 to 500 ratio and not allowing principals to adjust staffing in their schools, students are at risk,” he said, adding a ratio of 400 to 1 would be more practical.

He said recent cutbacks have meant many students are falling through the cracks, and guidance counsellors are overwhelmed by their immense workloads.

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“J.L. Ilsley, for example… for years had under a population of a thousand, but they maintained two guidance counsellors because they considered the need of the local community in supporting their students,” said Brumwell

“Under this new implementation of a 1 to 500 rule, they are forced to have less than two full-time guidance counsellors in that school.”

He said he would like the government to look at each individual school based on their specific needs and allocated the appropriate number of resources to better serve the students.

Education Minister Zach Churchill said the ratio was derived from “national norms and standards,” however, they are not opposed to revisiting it.

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“There are a couple processes we’re undergoing right now that might change that,” said Churchill.

“One being the Commission on Inclusive Education, which is reviewing what is a complex classroom in Nova Scotia. And I do have faith they’ll provide us with very helpful recommendations there. ”

He said they are also looking at the funding formula, adding he believes both of these things will have an impact on the current ratio.

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The Commission on Inclusive Education will issue an interim report by June 30.

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