Community groups have partnered to deliver free counselling in Te Awamutu schools.
The move is in response to a growing number of children struggling with emotions, behavioural challenges, and family trauma, senior leader of Zion, Phil Strong, said.
“Counselling In Schools” was developed in mid-2019 and its backers say the programme is succeeding and needs financial support from the community to grow.
Te Awamutu Primary School principal, Sharon Griffiths and her team approached Rosetown Community Services Trust (RCST), who had been working alongside them since 2016.
“We wanted to see a practical solution developed that could help our tamariki and their whanau,” said Sharon.
“We have worked with the team from RCST for several years with our Whare Ora initiative and then the Shine for Girls programme. We sat down and mapped out a support mechanism for the growing number of issues teachers in schools have to deal with every day.”
Counselling in Schools offers professional counselling during school hours and is delivered on school grounds to minimise disruption to the students who participate. Children are referred to the service by school staff or family and consultation ensures each party is cooperating to achieve the goals identified by the child.
Children can access up to 10 sessions during a term, with additional support available when necessary.
The programme was designed and tested in Term 4 of 2019 with a small sample of children at Te Awamutu Primary School. Thirteen children each received counselling from Kerry Smith, a qualified counsellor experienced in Play Therapy with children.
“Feedback from teachers and whanau showed amazing outcomes,” said Sharon. “Not only is the benefit seen in one child, but also across the group of friends they have in class. Overall, this makes it easier for the teacher to put energy into education instead of behaviour management.”
Last year, despite Covid restrictions, the programme extended into a second school with a second counsellor. Waipā Christian School joined the programme and 28 children received counselling through 2020.
“In order to best develop children holistically, we have to combine school-wide approaches to challenging behaviour with a strong pastoral care program,” Waipa Christian School principal, Jaco Labuschagne said.
The pilot stages proved providential as the counselling provided the participants with tools to cope with their challenging circumstances.
Last November a survey was completed across the ‘Rural and Roses Community of Learning,’ a collective of 19 schools across the region.
Sixteen of these schools participated, geographically located from Rukuhia to Arohena with school roll numbers ranging from 26 to 546 students.
Of the total roll of 2878 students across these schools, 304 children were referred to the Counselling in Schools programme. The reasons for referral, indicated by the schools, included trauma, anger, anxiety, social skills, self-regulation, depression, disrupted homes, grief, health issues, self-harm, and self-esteem.
At this point, Rosetown Community Services Trust was absorbed into local church, Zion, to ensure greater efficiencies of operation and access to wider resourcing.
Strong, was involved as a trustee of RCST.
“We received reports of the amazing results the kids achieved in this programme, and we were very keen to see it extend. We were very excited to take over the administration and delivery of this much-needed service,” he said.