The plight of the guidance counsellor

If you’re a grown-up with children, chances are that sometime in the last year, you’ve experienced the education system up close for probably the first time since you were a student yourself. Grade Three has been unfolding in my living room since the beginning of 2021. And because my daughter is so young, I keep an ear on things to make sure she stays on track.

A common reason parents cite when they reach out to me is “my kid’s guidance counsellor is useless.” Each time I hear it, it’s like a little gut punch. I mean, in any job, you’re going to find people who aren’t stellar employees. But I’ve heard it many times over the years from parents whose kids attend schools from across the province.

Honestly? It’s not super likely that it’s because they’re all terrible at their jobs.

What’s really happening

Your kid’s guidance counsellor is ridiculously overwhelmed. In a 2018 study from People for Education, 26% of guidance counsellors said they spend the majority of their time providing one-on-one counselling to students with mental health issues. They’re subbing in for therapists who aren’t there. There is no funding available to bring these professionals in to help.

Secondary guidance counsellors also have a tonne of other things on their plates. They are typically responsible for arranging accommodations for students with disabilities, making schedule adjustments, dealing with disciplinary matters, facilitating services with other professionals (personal support workers, for example) and supporting academic planning.

Then, if they can get around to it, they have the career guidance piece. And just to put the cherry on top, the average kid-to-counsellor ratio in Ontario is 396:1. So yeah, I’d say their ability to provide robust career guidance to every kid in their case load is limited.

If you think your kid could use some career guidance, I’m here.

Check out services for youth for more information. Services for parents are also available, if you’re looking for better ways to support your kids.

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