Funding ratio has to change
© Darrell Cole – Amherst Daily News
ARHS guidance counsellor Wade VanSnick (centre) speaks with Amherst Rotarian and Chignecto-Central Regional School Board member David Myles and Rotarian Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin.
AMHERST – Guidance counsellors are playing an important role in shaping the lives of Nova Scotia’s students.
Unfortunately, as Amherst Regional High School counselor Wade VanSnick said, there are a lot of students each with many diverse needs, but not enough counsellors to meet the demand.
“Funding school counselors on a ratio of one counsellor to 500 students is in itself problematic. These economic times, combined with our changing societal conditions are at odds with a ratio that was determined when schools did not promote such an openness especially in the area of mental health awareness and education,” VanSnick told members of the Amherst Rotary Club at a recent meeting. “Students today are encouraged to come forward and get help with these once not to be spoken about areas of their lives, and now they do.”
VanSnick said to see him now would require an appointment that might take a few days to get and he rarely has a day that his appointment book is not filled with students needing to see him.
“This ratio needs to change and it is here where it gets obviously political, so I’ll just leave it at that,” he added.
Despite the challenges, VanSnick said guidance counselors are making a difference. Counsellors, he said, work under the province’s Comprehensive Guidance and Counselling Program that requires a master’s degree in counseling psychology.
He said he works with students to address their personal, social, education and career needs. Work is done in large school assemblies, small group sessions, direct classroom instruction and group or individual counselling.
Some of services guidance counsellors offer are positive effective behaviours supports, restorative approaches, social/emotional learning and Schools Plus – an interagency approach to supporting the child and the family.
“So in all, you would receive direct teaching, personal counselling, mediation, family support, circle facilitation, academic advising, educational support facilitation, career counselling, outside agency referral, timetable scheduling, course changes, transcript services, post-secondary liaising and consuming a great deal of time this time of year, scholarship management,” VanSnick said, adding all these services are available for 700 students at ARHS with 1.3 guidance counselling positions.
VanSnick said today’s education system is raising a kinder, gentler young citizens and he’s proud that the school counsellor is helping guide this process.