The findings from the 49 school and wharekura visits and the student survey are presented in six sections. The first section identifies the student problems faced by schools. ERO’s findings on how well schools in the sample were providing guidance and counselling for students are presented next. This is followed by a section on how schools are working with external agencies. Comments from the ERO review teams are included in italics. Finally, the results of the student survey, including a comparison with phase one findings, are presented.

The methodology for this evaluation is included in Appendix 1. The evaluation framework, including questions and indicators are included in Appendix 2. Appendix 3 includes information about the schools and wharekura in the sample. Appendix 4 includes student survey findings.

1. What student problems are schools dealing with?

ERO found that the schools and wharekura were providing guidance and counselling for students who presented with many different problems. These problems were apparent in all types, deciles and locations of schools. Guidance and counselling staff were asked about the major problems facing their school in terms of student wellbeing. The main problems students faced included those arising from household poverty, poor mental health, family dysfunction, bullying, relationships, and drugs and alcohol.

Table 1 shows the types of problems identified by staff at schools. This list is by no means exhaustive and many of the lesser identified problems (for example sexual health, gaming or computer addiction) are most likely present in many of the other schools in the sample where this was not explicitly mentioned to ERO.

Table 1: Problems schools address through guidance and counselling

Problem identified by school

Percentage of schools identifying these problems

Household poverty related, including poor housing, parent/s working long hours, transience caused by poverty, condoned absenteeism due to family responsibilities (such as caring for younger siblings), students working inappropriate jobs/long hours


Poor mental health, including anger, anxiety, body image, eating disorders, depression, self harm, stress, psychosis, ideas about suicide


Family dysfunction, including family breakdown, domestic violence, intergenerational problems, transience caused by family breakdown, condoned absenteeism


Bullying, including social media and cyber bullying




Drugs and alcohol


Violence, crime and gang related


Sexual health, including pregnancy


Death and grief


Physical health problems


Gaming and computer addiction




2. How well do schools provide guidance and counselling?

ERO evaluated how well each school in this sample provided guidance and counselling to students. Just under two-thirds of schools were doing this well, while just over one-third needed to improve their guidance and counselling provision.

As shown in Figure 2, ERO found that in 30 of 49 schools/wharekura, the guidance and counselling provision was serving students well, with 14 of these schools/wharekura doing this very well. In the remaining 19 schools/wharekura, the provision of guidance and counselling did not serve students well. In four of these schools/wharekura, ERO was concerned about the lack of guidance and counselling support for students.

Figure 2: How well schools provide guidance and counselling to students

figure 2 is a bar graph called how well schools provide guidance and counselling to students. the x-axis is ranged 0-50 at intervals of 10. The y-axis is four catergories they are very well 14%, well 16%, somewhat well 15% and not at all well 4%.

ERO tested these judgements to see if certain school characteristics made any difference to how well schools provided guidance and counselling. ERO found that:

  • school type, roll size, decile group, and the number of guidance counsellors in a school made no statistically significant difference to the overall judgement
  • as roll size increased so too did the likelihood of a school being rated ‘very well’. However, this finding was not quite statistically significant. [27]
  • schools in major and secondary urban areas were more likely to be rated ‘very well’ than schools in minor urban and rural areas. The implications of this finding are discussed later in the report.

In the phase one survey findings, guidance counsellors considered their position was well managed and appraised. However, in many of the 49 schools and wharekura visited by ERO this was identified as an area of concern. Often guidance counsellors were appraised by someone with little understanding of their role, or only against the Registered Teachers Criteria. School leaders rarely appraised deans for their guidance and counselling role.

3. What does good guidance and counselling provision look like?

ERO found that the provision of guidance and counselling in 14 schools was serving students very well. This section looks at the context of these schools, the approach they took to guidance and counselling, the implementation of their approach, and their review of its effectiveness. Table 2 includes contextual information about the 14 schools in this group.

Table 2: Contextual information for schools doing very well

School type

mostly Year 9 to 13 secondary schools, however the two wharekura were Year 1 to 15 composites


spread from low to high deciles, with most being medium decile (4-7)


across New Zealand, with almost all in major urban areas

Roll size

over half with large or very large rolls, but also including schools with small and medium-sized rolls [28]

Roll aspects

nine had substantial Māori rolls, and two had substantial Pacific rolls [29]


almost all received the maximum 2.3 Guidance FTTE [30]Staffing Entitlement; the two wharekura received 1 FTTEor less

Guidance counsellors

most had one or two guidance counsellors, but two very large‑sized schools had three guidance counsellors, and one large-sized school had four; the two wharekura did not have a guidance counsellor

Programmes [31]

none had school‑based health services, [32] MASSiS, [33]SWiS [34] or Ministry of Social Development (MSD) Youth Workers [35]


The approach to guidance and counselling in these schools was based on a strong ethos of care, a commitment to the holistic wellbeing of students, and an understanding that student wellbeing is critical to learning and achievement. Leadership was strong and proactive. A shared understanding of guidance and counselling was strongly evident and there were close connections between each school’s strategic vision and goals and their actual practice. The values or kaupapa guiding each school were clear, well articulated, practised and visible in the school.

The following comments provide examples of how school leaders’ expectations, and the development of a shared approach to guidance and counselling were crucial to student wellbeing.

The wharekura whakataukī and mātāpono set clear expectations and protocols for student wellbeing, care and learning. The model focuses on a whole wharekura approach where the responsibility for the care of all students is a collective and collaborative one. The principal has a critical role in guiding and promoting an inclusive and empowering kaupapa Māori approach. (Wharekura)

The underpinning values are those of a traditional boys’ school. There is a strong focus on positive behaviour, respect, uniform. What makes this school different is the use of the word ‘love’ as one of the core values. This is seen to be the caring concern that a parent would have for a child and is the expectation for all staff. This philosophy comes from the top, but there is a very consistent articulation of it across all levels of staff. (Single sex school - boys)

The approach is driven by an overarching goal- Heart, Mind, and Body – that was initiated by staff, and well led by the principal. Further goals have been developed from this:

  • Heart – positive engagement and positive relationships
  • Mind – raising involvement and lifting achievement
  • Body – safe environment to help student learning improve. (Co-ed school)

The approaches taken by this group of schools were similar to ERO’s findings in the phase one report. In their survey responses, school leaders and guidance counsellors identified that having a shared understanding about guidance and counselling, and an ethos of care and respect throughout the school, was critical to effective guidance and counselling. Guidance counsellors said that this helped ensure students received the same message about the importance and normality of guidance and counselling.


Most of the schools in this group had guidance and counselling models that used deans, guidance counsellors, form/tutor/whānau teachers and oversight by a member of the senior leadership team (SLT). Other staff involved in guidance and counselling included careers counsellors, learning/academic mentors, SENCOs, [36]RTLBs, [37] attendance officers, school nurses, social workers and youth workers. [38]This inclusion of a wide variety of roles is reflective of the practice promoted in the ‘circle of care’ concept. The comments highlight the role of deans and form teachers in this model.

The deans’ team supports the pastoral care needs of the girls and is the first point of call for parents with concerns about their daughter. Deans take responsibility for the progress and welfare of girls. Deans say they have moved from a model where the focus is purely discipline to a more holistic support role: “We separate the behaviour from the student.” Form teachers have vertical form classes and are responsible for the day‑to‑day care of students. Form teachers know their students well. They are enthusiastic about their role and have built positive relationships with students who are in their forms for their whole time at school. They are the key people in the pastoral care of students and are expected to encourage the students to make the best of their time at school. (Single sex school - girls)

In the two wharekura there was no designated team as such. Rather, all staff were responsible for guidance and counselling and the principal had oversight.

The principal is adamant that the wharekura will maintain and sustain a whole wharekura whānau approach rather that delegating the responsibility for formal guidance and counselling to one or two individuals. (Wharekura)

In almost all of these schools, guidance and counselling staff were housed in appropriate spaces that facilitated communication and made it comfortable for students to seek help. [39] In one school:

All aspects of pastoral support are gathered together in a one‑stop‑shop all‑under‑one‑roof approach to combine all students’ services in one building; and include:

  • guidance counsellors
  • social workers
  • nurses
  • attendance administration staff
  • careers staff
  • year level deans
  • spaces for visiting external agency specialists.

This student services building is centrally located in the heart of the school. It is not linked to the ‘official’ public front of the school where the main office and SLT offices are attached to the staffroom. (Co-ed school)


Strong leadership was a factor in the success of guidance and counselling in these schools, with strategic and annual-plan goals clearly related to the school’s approach/kaupapa and practice. Leaders provided clear guidelines and expectations about roles. Guidance and counselling systems were effective and well aligned with practice. The three comments below show the importance of leadership for guidance and counselling.

There is a strong culture of all staff members knowing well what their individual roles are in a complex mechanism for providing a very busy service for a wide range of very complex needs. The new head of department has an excellent understanding of what the needs are, how they are meeting them, and how to get the best of many excellent people currently providing these services. (Co-ed school)

There is strong involvement by the principal and other senior leaders in pastoral care. The principal articulates a clear philosophy and expectations for pastoral care and expects to be informed and involved. She attends tutor and faculty meetings, and receives appropriate information on individual students from the guidance counsellors on a weekly basis. (Single sex school - boys)

Te Whakaruruhau is a special group of kuia and kaumātua who provide valued support on a variety of matters to the wharekura. The care and wellbeing of students, whānau and staff is a priority for the elders. They are guardians of the wairua (spiritual wellbeing) of the wharekura, and of all those who are a part of the wharekura community. (Wharekura)


Schools in this group offered a good variety of preventative programmes that focused on the needs of the students at the school. Most provided academic and peer mentoring, transitions and lifeskills programmes, and programmes that were gender or ethnicity specific. Programmes also focused on wider social and mental health problems such as bullying, drugs and alcohol, sexuality, self esteem, and gaming addiction. School-wide programmes involving both staff and students were also in place, such as restorative practices and programmes based on school values. Table 3 includes some examples of preventative programmes offered at this group of schools.

Table 3: Examples of preventative programmes

Name of programme

Comment about programme


Support for Years 9 and 10 girls transitioning into school, connecting them with Year 11 girls. (Girls’ school)

Y’s Girls

Targeted programme for a group of Year 10 girls with self esteem and confidence issues – to help them communicate more effectively. (Girls’ school)

Folau Alofa

Individual mentoring for Years 9 and 10 Pacific students. (Co-ed school)

Year 9 Mentor Teachers

24 Mentor Teachers provided with mentoring training to work with all Year 9 students. (Co‑ed school)

Boys to Men

Year-long focus for all Year 9 boys. Focuses on feelings, friends, orientation, how I think, feel and learn, success, confidence, persistence, organisation, getting along, emotional resilience. (Boys’ school)

Wonderful Wahine

Full day at local marae for Years 9 and 10 Māori girls, focusing on nurturing and identifying as Māori. (Co-ed school)


Proactive support group valuing and fostering a culture of acceptance of diversity and tolerance of others. (Co-ed school)

Te Paepae Arahi

Focused on developing resilience, friendship and lifeskills for selected Years 9 and 10 girls. (Co-ed school)

Te Whānau o te Kakano

Whānau class for Years 9 to 13 Māori students. Students apply to be in the class. Provides a Māori pathway for students and their whānau, and helps them to draw from their strengths and identity to achieve their academic potential. Embraces tikanga and te reo Māori. (Co-ed school)

Te Aka Tautoko Akonga

Peer support programme for Māori students. (Co-ed school)

Shine and Toolshed

Nurturing programmes for girls (Shine) and boys (Toolshed) that builds resilience in individuals and focuses on valuing self. (Co‑ed school)

Undercover Action Teams

Anti-bullying initiative where the guidance counsellor guides a small group of students in a class, where bullying has occurred, through a process to resolve the situation. The group involves the student being bullied and the person bullying (not identified) and five other selected classmates. (Co-ed school)

Lifeskills Coach

The Lifeskills Coach is a Māori staff member who works mainly with Māori and Pacific students as a coach/mentor. He sees his role as “building strong character through opening up the heart and then nurturing it.” He has expectations about behavioural and academic work standards. Students self refer and are also referred. (Co-ed school)

While these schools had appropriate preventative programmes in place, they also had good procedures to respond to critical incidents. They had good practices around seeking external help when new problems presented, such as gaming addiction.


Students at these schools were aware of the guidance and counselling services available to them, and made good use of these services. Self-referral rates by students were high at all of these schools. Staff also felt confident to refer students. The guidance counsellors were seen as competent, confidential and welcoming. In some of these schools, parents and peers also made guidance and counselling referrals. However, while referral systems appeared to be working in these schools, in some, better use of technology, rather than paper‑based and runner systems could help to reduce stigma and ensure privacy. The comments below show ways in which referrals worked well at two schools:

Student awareness of guidance and counselling was helped by:

  • student involvement in a variety of peer-support programmes linked to the guidance and counselling provision
  • the guidance counsellor and nurse’s involvement in year-level assemblies and in bullying awareness programmes taught as part of the health curriculum
  • frequent reference in school notices and newsletters to the services provided
  • the integrated nature of guidance and counselling across the school, and staff readiness to support individual students and to refer as necessary. (Co‑ed school)

Documented referral processes are known and used with some flexibility by all members of the team, or as well as possible, when situations are urgent, hectic or confused. A front-of-house receptionist in Students’ Services interacts with students regarding attendance and lateness, and directs some students to the key person in the building who might be the best first port of call. Students can and do self refer or other students refer their friends if they see the need. (Co-ed school)

Relationships and communication

Among the key aspects of the success of guidance and counselling provision in these schools were positive and trusting relationships and good communication. Guidance and counselling teams met regularly and were focused on outcomes for students. Smaller teams within the wider guidance and counselling team in the school met regularly. Communication was good between these different teams. Staff involved in guidance and counselling knew who was responsible for what, and staff shared information about students appropriately.

Students knew what to expect around confidentiality and privacy, and what the guidelines were for sharing information with parents and whānau, and with external agencies. Guidance and counselling staff were accessible to parents, and parents were well informed about the school’s approach to guidance and counselling.

While the two wharekura in this group did not have the same roles and structures in place as the other schools, they also worked hard to make sure relationships and communication were effective.

The size and uniqueness of the wharekura allow for close connections and support systems to develop and strengthen. The kaumātua and kuia help to keep staff safe, grounded and confident in the approach and framework. (Wharekura)

Professional practice: findings for the schools doing very well

  • Guidance counsellors usually received one management unit [40] and had, for the most part, no classroom teaching responsibilities.
  • Deans generally received one or two management units and about four hours of non-classroom contact time per week for guidance and counselling/pastoral care.
  • Most guidance counsellors accessed regular and school-funded professional learning and development (PLD), with two schools saying that geographic isolation limited their PLD opportunities.
  • Other staff involved in guidance and counselling accessed externally-provided PLD, but very few guidance counsellors provided PLD for staff at their school.
  • Some guidance counsellors used interns [41] to ease their workload and to provide counsellors of a different gender or ethnicity from themselves. Other schools in this group said that interns were too much of a time commitment.
  • Almost all guidance counsellors had a counselling qualification and most also had a teaching qualification. Others had relevant qualifications, such as social work or psychiatry.
  • All guidance counsellors received regular professional supervision from an external supervisor paid for by the school.
  • Most guidance counsellors had a job description and were appraised for their guidance and counselling roles.
  • Deans and form teachers in some schools had guidance and counselling responsibilities noted in their job description, but only the deans had any appraisal related to these aspects of their role.
  • All guidance counsellors followed an appropriate code of ethics. In most cases, this was the NZAC code of ethics. [42] Staff at the two wharekura also had an appropriate understanding of ethics and confidentiality.

Challenges to implementation

ERO identified some challenges in the 14 schools that were serving students very well. The main challenges were workload tensions created by an increased demand for counselling time. Guidance counsellors in particular found this affected their involvement in extra-curricular activities, which they saw as developing their profile in the school and their relationships with students.

Some guidance counsellors were also spending more time reacting to critical incidents rather than developing proactive and preventative programmes to meet student needs and continuing to work with students they were already seeing. These findings are reflective of ERO’s phase one findings in the report published in July 2013.

Self review

Most of the 14 schools in this group were undertaking self review about the effectiveness of their guidance and counselling. Self review included school‑wide surveys of the students, staff and parents and whānau, reviews of pastoral care goals, and student feedback specifically about their recent experience of guidance and counselling. The results of surveys were shared at board meetings. All the schools also made decisions about their guidance and counselling based on informal or anecdotal information, and other statistical information they felt was reflective of the effectiveness of guidance and counselling. This information included:

  • a reduction in stand-downs and suspensions
  • an increase in student engagement, particularly for Māori and Pacific students
  • improved attendance and retention
  • a reduction in significant incidents
  • improved student achievement and progress
  • increased self and peer referral.

Boards received reports about guidance and counselling and, in some cases, the nature of the reporting was very comprehensive. In most of these schools, the board members engaged with the data and acknowledged a positive influence of guidance and counselling on student achievement. The comments below highlight how self review was undertaken in three of the 14 schools in this group.

The guidance counselling department reports to the board annually. The report includes comment on developments, roles, supervision, and PLD; a statistical summary; and makes recommendations. The statistical summary includes the number of student contacts to the guidance counsellor and interns by year level, gender, ethnicity and types of issues. A commentary includes consideration of patterns and trends and the apparent impact of programmes introduced. The board also receives regular presentations on specific initiatives such as PB4L, [43] and academic counselling. These reports help the board and SLT to consider trends and patterns in student use of the guidance counsellors and inform their decision-making. (Co-ed school)

The strategic and annual plans contain specific objectives related to pastoral care for deans, senior leaders and teachers. The school uses a variety of approaches to review the effectiveness of its pastoral support for students:

  • deans conduct bullying surveys within year groups and take action based on these
  • surveys at the end of each year of the mentors and mentees (Māori and Pacific mentoring programme)
  • regular review against the pastoral goals in the strategic and action plan is carried out by a special committee for each goal, and feedback on goals is provided to each faculty
  • intermittent parent surveys are analysed and reported
  • an end of year deans’ self-review meeting results in an area of focus for the next year. (Single sex school - boys)

Weekly meetings occur across a variety of pastoral care/guidance and counselling levels. These have a strong focus on individual students. The accumulation of this information provides data for aspects of review that happen at weekly meetings and in reports to senior leaders and the board. The guidance counsellor provides review information to the director of student support who collates this and other review material from other pastorally-related departments to report to the board. Student surveys form part of the school’s review process. The reports to the board are comprehensive and comment on progress, strengths and concerns. These are solidly based on self review and the gathering of data over time so that trends and patterns are clearly evident. (Co-ed school)

4. What did the other schools need to improve?

This section looks at ERO’s findings about the provision of guidance and counselling in the remaining 35 schools - the 16 schools where the provision of guidance and counselling was serving students well, the 15 schools where guidance and counselling provision was not serving students well, and the four schools where significant improvement was needed.

What needed to improve in the schools that were providing well for students?

ERO found that guidance and counselling was well provided in 16 schools. Table 4 provides contextual information about this group of schools.

Table 4: Contextual information for schools doing well

School type

mostly Year 9 to 13 secondary schools, included one wharekura, three single sex schools (two girls’, one boys’), and four state-integrated schools


spread from low to high, they were mostly medium decile (4-7)


across New Zealand, mostly in major urban areas

Roll size

mostly small or medium rolls, but also large and very large rolls

Roll aspects

ten schools had substantial Māori rolls, three had reasonably high Pacific rolls, and about one-third of the schools were dealing with high transience among students [44]


almost all received the maximum 2.3 Guidance FTTE Staffing Entitlement; two composite schools received 1.5 FTTE or less

Guidance counsellors

about two-thirds of the schools had one guidance counsellor, with two counsellors in about one-third of schools


five schools had school-based health services (all in upper North Island); and none had MASSiS, SWiS, or MSD Youth Workers in the school

Approach and implementation

The approach to, and implementation of, guidance and counselling in schools that were serving students well was very similar to that of the schools that provided very well for students. There was no one reason why these schools were not serving students as well, but across the schools a variety of improvements were needed. [45]

Strategic recognition

In many of these schools, the underpinning philosophy informing guidance and counselling needed to be clearly reflected in strategic and annual planning; and links needed to be made with PLD, job descriptions and appraisal.

Some schools needed to review their strategic resourcing of guidance and counselling, as their guidance and counselling staff were dealing with high caseload levels. This was particularly apparent in schools with large or very large rolls and with only one guidance counsellor. [46]

Professional practice

ERO identified that some schools in this group needed to:

  • consider the qualifications and knowledge of their guidance counsellors. At a few schools the guidance counsellors were not trained and, in one case, the person responsible for guidance and counselling was paid as a teacher aide
  • review policies and procedures relating to guidance and counselling to ensure they are up to date and reflect current practice
  • review the relevance of preventative programmes and how well they reflect the student population, in particular for Māori and Pacific students
  • ensure guidance counsellors’ workloads allow them to attend school-funded PLD
  • provide appropriate PLD for guidance and counselling staff (other than the guidance counsellors) relating to their role (an issue in half these schools)
  • review job descriptions to ensure reference to guidance and counselling where appropriate, and ensure relevant staff are aware of their job description
  • implement relevant and robust appraisal of guidance counsellors that is not based solely on the Registered Teacher Criteria. [47]

Relationships and communications

Some schools in this group needed to strengthen relationships and communications with parents. ERO found that:

  • a few schools only ‘brought in’ parents when students were having difficulties
  • some schools were struggling to connect with Māori whānau and Pacific families
  • some schools acknowledged it was hard to build deeper relationships with some parents, particularly those working shifts or who had multiple jobs.

Self review

Many of the schools in this group relied on anecdotal information to determine the effectiveness of their guidance and counselling provision. Six of these schools undertook no self review at all. In other schools, self review was limited and often lacked rigour, with few formal ways to take account of student perspectives. To improve their self review, these schools needed to:

  • undertake student surveys that relate to the effectiveness of guidance and counselling, rather than focusing only on bullying and student safety
  • use information about guidance and counselling provision to inform strategic decisions
  • gather specific information from students, parents and teachers about the effectiveness of guidance and counselling provision, rather than only relying on indicators that guidance and counselling is working, such as:
    • the school philosophy supports student wellbeing
    • attendance and retention rates have improved
    • student achievement has improved
    • stand-downs and suspensions have lowered
    • the tone of the school has improved
    • the school is the one of choice in the community.

ERO’s concerns about these schools

In many of these 16 schools, ERO found increasing numbers of students were seeking help and the severity of their needs was also increasing. ERO questioned the capacity of guidance and counselling staff to effectively manage an increasing workload, and the capability of some staff, such as deans and form teachers, to address these problems with little or no PLD opportunities.

Many of these schools, while providing responsive guidance and counselling for most students, were struggling to be culturally responsive to their Māori and Pacific students. This is of concern as the majority of schools in this group had high Māori and/or Pacific rolls.

What needed to improve in the schools that were not providing adequate guidance and counselling for students?

ERO found that guidance and counselling provision needed considerable improvement in 19 of the 49 schools. This section outlines the significant improvements needed in these schools. They were judged as doing ‘somewhat well’ or ‘not at all well’. Table 5 provides contextual information for these two groups of schools.

Table 5: Contextual information for schools doing somewhat well or not at all well


‘Somewhat well’

‘Not at all well’

School type

most were Year 9 to 13 secondary schools, and included two state‑integrated schools, five single sex schools (one girls’/four boys’) and one wharekura.

two were Year 9 to 13 secondary schools, two were Year 1 to 13 schools; and two of the four schools were state integrated, one was a state school and one was a wharekura


spread across decile groupings

all decile 1-4


spread across New Zealand, located mostly in major urban areas, however four of these schools were geographically isolated

all located in the upper North Island; three in minor urban areas, and one in a major urban area

Roll size

most had medium to large rolls, but also a few with small rolls

all had small rolls

Roll aspects

seven schools had a substantial Māori roll, and three had high numbers of Pacific students [48]

all of the schools had either a substantial Māori or Pacific roll [49]


almost all received the maximum 2.3 Guidance FTTE Staffing Entitlement; one composite school received less than 1 FTTE

two received the maximum 2.3 Guidance FTTE Staffing Entitlement; and the two composite schools received 1.1 FTTE or less

Guidance counsellors

most had one guidance counsellor

two of these schools had a guidance counsellor, and they had only recently been appointed at the time of ERO’s visit


almost half had school-based health services in the school, but most did not have a SWiS and none had an MSD Youth Worker

one of these schools (based in a major urban area) had school-based health services and MASSiS

Other factors

three-quarters of these schools stated there were serious socio-economic problems in their communities

two of the schools noted that they had serious problems relating to poverty and family dysfunction in the community

Approach and Implementation

Many of the schools in these two groups provided a guidance and counselling system based on a guidance counsellor, deans and form teachers. However, in each school various issues were evident that meant that guidance and counselling was not effectively provided.

The 15 schools providing guidance and counselling ‘somewhat well’ for students needed to improve in one or more of the following areas.

  • Develop an integrated approach to guidance and counselling, rather than seeing guidance and counselling provision as a series of actions, with staff working in isolation.
  • Develop a shared understanding of what guidance and counselling means, rather than relying solely on an underpinning philosophy relating to their special character as a panacea for student wellbeing.
  • Give priority to guidance and counselling. In about half of these schools, there was poor strategic resourcing additional to the Guidance Staffing Entitlement (non‑classroom contact time and management units) for guidance and counselling.
  • Review the workload of guidance counsellors. In one-third of these schools, guidance counsellors had a classroom teaching role or other responsibilities such as careers, international students, supervising beginning teachers, or managing health centres within the school, which ERO evidenced as impacting on their capacity to work effectively as a guidance counsellor.
  • Put in place strategies to reduce the perceived stigma surrounding guidance and counselling that some guidance counsellors considered was lowering student self‑referrals.
  • Reduce other barriers to students’ self-referring, such as guidance counsellors’ lack of visibility in the school, lack of promotion of guidance counselling services, and the screening of who gets access to counselling by teachers and support staff.
  • Review the provision of preventative programmes to reflect the needs of students, especially particular groups of students, for example, Māori, Pacific, boys, girls, GLBT. [50]
  • Review guidance and counselling policies and procedures so they are up to date, reflect practice and/or current legislation, [51] and do not potentially put students at risk.
  • Develop protocols to guide practice, in particular the confidentiality of student information.
  • Improve professional practice by providing appropriate PLD for deans and guidance counsellors, encouraging guidance counsellors to become qualified, ensuring professional supervision, reviewing job descriptions, and undertaking robust appraisal of deans and guidance counsellors regarding their guidance role.
  • Develop effective relationships with students, so they are not reluctant to seek help.
  • Develop effective partnerships with Māori parents, so Māori whānau are not only ‘brought into school’ when their children are in trouble.
  • Move from a reactive/punitive model to a preventative/pastoral model, and resolve, particularly in the boys’ schools, the conflict between discipline and guidance and counselling roles for staff, as shown in the comment below about a single sex school (boys).

Academic achievement is seen as important and the focus is on getting students to achieve. Student wellbeing is seen as something to respond to when things go wrong. Staff have a limited role to play in the nurturing, care and wellbeing of students. Discipline and behaviour issues far outweigh the more pressing issues teenagers face growing up.

Improvements were needed to develop effective structures and make better use of staffing in the four schools where ERO identified significant concerns about their lack of guidance and counselling provision. ERO found:

  • two schools with part-time guidance counsellors (0.4 and 0.6 FTTEs) who were both new and struggling with a lack of policies, procedures and clear lines of communication
  • a lack of time allowances for other guidance and counselling staff to work effectively in their roles
  • people not employed by the school working in two state-integrated schools with no memorandum of understanding, which meant the school had little control over how and with whom these people worked
  • school leaders unable to fund extra time for guidance and counselling staff, even when receiving the maximum 2.3 FTTE Guidance Staffing Entitlement.

These four schools needed to provide staff with orientation to their guidance and counselling role or the role of guidance and counselling in the school, including providing PLD, developing job descriptions, and undertaking appraisal that related to their guidance and counselling roles. Specific policies and procedures needed to be developed to guide staff in their work and help them to improve practices. Improvement included ensuring protocols for referrals and confidentiality were understood, and information about students shared appropriately, particularly when students were at risk.

ERO identified issues in these four schools related to the provision of preventative programmes that targeted known student problems and were based on effective strategies. ERO found that:

  • in one school there were no preventative programmes
  • in another school hauora was taught poorly and reluctantly as part of the health curriculum
  • one school had a programme provided by an external agency operating in the school, but knew little of its impact
  • in the remaining school, the most effective strategies were embedded in academy programmes, but these were limited to a certain population of the school and were not operating at the time of ERO’s visit.

These four schools also needed to:

  • improve communication from school leaders to staff, students, and parents and whānau about guidance and counselling provision
  • improve relationships and communication, such as providing clear guidelines about meetings, in particular, meetings that involved discussions about students’ problems
  • report to the board and seek more board involvement in strategic guidance and counselling decisions.

Self review

Self review was not a feature of the schools in this group. Only five of the 19 schools where guidance and counselling provision was judged ‘somewhat well’ or ‘not at all well’ had undertaken any self review about the effectiveness of their provision. To improve their self review, these schools needed to:

  • decrease their reliance on perceived indicators that guidance and counselling was working well. These schools relied solely on
    • the school being one of choice in the community
    • improved attendance, stand-downs and suspension
    • engagement in co-curricular activities
    • improved external achievement results.
  • reconsider their views that the school’s special character was enough to ensure guidance and counselling provision was effective, as was the case with leaders in three of the schools in the ‘not at all well’ group
  • seek the views of students and parents and whānau about guidance and counselling provision
  • improve their reporting to the board about guidance and counselling provision and clearly note any actions resulting from this reporting.

ERO’s concerns about these schools

ERO’s main concerns about schools in these two groups were:

  • the workloads placed on guidance and counselling staff
  • the lack of resources dedicated to guidance and counselling provision
  • the lack of support from external agencies.

Also apparent was a lack of shared understanding between guidance counsellors and their senior leadership team in some of the schools where provision was rated ‘somewhat well’. Poor curriculum practices, limited preventative programmes, and a lack of formal counselling were evident in two of the schools where provision was the poorest. In one school, the level and severity of needs among students was so great, that ERO considered the school did not have the capacity and capability to meet these needs.

Sixteen of the 19 schools in these two groups received the maximum 2.3 FTTE Guidance Staffing Entitlement, yet in many of the schools there was a lack of resources dedicated to guidance and counselling; be that staffing, non-classroom contact time, support for good quality professional practice, or preventative programmes. ERO is concerned about the lack of accountability for the use of the Guidance Staffing Entitlement in just over half of these schools. Schools and wharekura need to consider if sufficient resources are being directed to guidance and counselling so they can effectively respond to student needs

5. Working with external agencies

Almost all schools were dealing with a variety of external agencies, working both in the school and externally with students. Most schools liaised with Child Youth and Family (CYF), regional child and adolescent mental health service providers (CAMHS), drug and alcohol counsellors/therapists, medical staff (mainly doctors and nurses) and the Police for either referrals or preventative programmes.

Many schools also dealt with external counsellors and therapists, sexual health providers and had church-funded youth workers in the school. A few schools used the services of Māori health providers and/or liaised with local iwi.

Very few schools in the sample had access to social workers, and a small number of them indicated to ERO that they would like to have social workers onsite to help staff meet student wellbeing needs more effectively. In two schools external support had been declined because it did not match the school’s philosophy or kaupapa.

ERO found that the guidance and counselling staff who had the knowledge and experience to make good links and network with external agencies were better able to access support for students. In the schools that were doing well or very well, staff had mostly positive relationships with external agencies and there were good referral processes. However, protocols to guide these relationships were lacking in most of these schools.

Schools identified challenges working with external agencies regardless of the success of their provision of guidance and counselling. Many identified a stigma among students and their families about accessing support in the community, although this was seen as more of a problem in schools where provision of guidance and counselling was poorer overall.

Almost all schools identified problems working with CYF and CAMHS. Most stated it was hard to develop ongoing relationships with staff at these agencies and that their responsiveness was person dependent. School staff said that there was limited feedback from these agencies within confidentiality protocols and they did not know what was happening for students referred to these agencies when they returned to school. School staff dealing with CAMHS noted increasingly complex referral pathways, stating that they would only refer the most complex cases as waiting times were commonly one to two months. One guidance counsellor highlighted what this meant for student wellbeing:

“Schools hold many young people who are in quite vulnerable states for longer and longer periods of time.”

Almost all schools identified the effect of staffing cutbacks to external agencies, and stated that student referrals were impacted negatively by the uncertainty around many non‑government/community-based services’ survival due to the nature of contestable funding.

ERO’s findings from the school visits regarding working with external agencies are very similar to the phase one survey findings, which included:

  • poor or limited access to, and response from, external agencies and support services
  • referrals to these agencies coming with long wait times, fees and inaccessibility due to transport issues and geographical isolation
  • high thresholds for referrals.

During the school visits, ERO found that these challenges were, for the most part, associated with CYF and CAMHS, and that schools that were doing very well or well had strategies to lessen the impact of these challenges. These strategies included having good protocols for seeking external help, and developing and maintaining good relationships with external agencies.

6. Student survey: what are students telling us about guidance and counselling?

These findings are based on the responses to an online survey from 671 students. The students are from 18 of the 49 schools/wharekura visited in phase two of this evaluation. School leaders were asked to invite students to complete the survey in the lead up to ERO’s visit. Detailed comparisons between the phase one and phase two student survey findings are in Appendix 4.

Who do students see for help?

ERO asked students to indicate who they would talk to in relation to a variety of problems. Students were able to choose more than one person for each issue. Table 6 shows the most common people students said they would talk with. Numbers of responses are given in parentheses.

Table 6: Who do students see for particular problems?

Learning issues

Goal setting

Mental health issues

form teacher (409)

dean (297)

parent/caregiver (271)

friends/other students (228)

form teacher (368)

dean (257)

parent/caregiver (257)

careers advisor (177)

guidance counsellor (378)

parent/caregiver (233)

doctor (198)

school nurse (188)

Physical health issues

Sexual health issues

Sexuality issues

doctor (358)

school nurse (315)

parent/caregiver (225)

doctor (301)

school nurse (288)

parent/caregiver (186)

guidance counsellor (213)

parent/caregiver (193)

no one (162)

Boy/girl friend issues

Family stuff

Drug and alcohol issues

friends/other students (343)

guidance counsellor (252)

parent/caregiver (241)

guidance counsellor (345)

friends/other students (221)

parent/caregiver (205)

guidance counsellor (312)

parent/caregiver (235)

friends/other students (166)

Careers and further education and training

Learning at school

Issues with teachers

careers advisor (467)

parent/caregiver (250)

dean (216)

form teacher (191)

dean (369)

form teacher (335)

parent/caregiver (310)

dean (415)

parent/caregiver (371)

guidance counsellor (183)

Issues with friends


Financial issues

parent/caregiver (310)

guidance counsellor (293)

friends/other students (216)

dean (323)

guidance counsellor (322)

parent/caregiver (320)

form teacher (228)

parent/caregiver (357)

guidance counsellor (184)


Sexual harassment


guidance counsellor (277)

parent/caregiver (267)

dean (259)

guidance counsellor (315)

parent/caregiver (307)

dean (207)

guidance counsellor (338)

parent/caregiver (275)

friends/other students (171)

Family violence

Self harming

Body image

guidance counsellor (393)

friends/other students (170)

guidance counsellor (358)

parent/caregiver (193)

guidance counsellor (255)

parent/caregiver (203)

Across all of the problems ERO asked about, students were most likely to talk to their parents or caregivers, followed by guidance counsellors. Deans and friends or other students were the next most likely. More specialised personnel like careers advisors and school nurses were mostly seen only for matters within their specific area of practice. This is similar to the phase one findings.

Table 6 shows that students saw guidance counsellors most commonly for:

  • mental health issues
  • sexuality issues
  • family stuff
  • drug and alcohol issues
  • racism
  • sexual harassment
  • grief
  • family violence
  • self harming
  • body image.

The matters that students were least likely to see guidance counsellors for were:

  • learning at school
  • physical health
  • careers and further education or training
  • goal setting.

Students indicated that they had a variety of other people they talk to including

  • a subject teacher (not the form teacher)
  • other family members
  • police
  • principal, or other school leader
  • sports coach or personal trainer
  • church people (pastor, youth group leader). [52]

Guidance and counselling available at their schools

Ninety-seven percent of students responding said that they had a guidance counsellor at their school. When asked whether anyone else at the school provided guidance and counselling, 63 percent of students said yes. Deans, form teachers and classroom teachers were the most commonly identified people who provided guidance and counselling, other than guidance counsellors.

What do students look for in a guidance counsellor?

Students wanted guidance counsellors who were able to offer practical and useful advice that would help them with what was troubling them. Students identified certain characteristics of the guidance counsellor as important; that they were supportive and comforting, good at listening, trustworthy, empathetic, friendly and non-judgemental.

Confidentiality was another key theme. It was important for students that their discussions remained private. Eighty-eight percent of respondents agreed with the statement ‘confidentiality is really important’, while less than two percent disagreed.

Social acceptability of guidance and counselling

Seventy percent of students indicated that it was ‘very acceptable’ or ‘acceptable depending on what it is about’ to see someone for guidance and counselling at their school. Only three percent said it was ‘not acceptable’. However, a quarter of students did not respond to this question or responded that they did not know.

Students also reported that the social acceptability of seeing someone for guidance and counselling varied depending on factors like “who you are,” and expressed that different groups of students within the school would perceive it differently.

The perceived social acceptability of seeing someone for guidance and counselling was reasonably consistent between ERO’s phase one and phase two surveys.

Strengths of guidance and counselling

Overwhelmingly, the most commonly cited positive aspect, representing around 60 percent of responses, was that guidance counsellors were able to help and provided practical and useful advice and guidance. Where students were more specific, they wrote about guidance counsellors providing encouragement, giving a new perspective, and stopping bullying or keeping students safe.

Other students cited guidance counsellor characteristics – most commonly that they were friendly but also understanding, trustworthy, approachable, accepting, supportive, easy to talk to, willing to listen, willing to help and caring about students.

Positive aspects of the way guidance and counselling was provided at the school included:

  • availability of guidance and counselling staff
  • that counselling could take place at school
  • that guidance and counselling was free
  • that students knew where to go
  • that students could either make appointments at any time, or drop in on a more casual basis.

What makes it easier to access guidance and counselling?

Students cited aspects of provision that make it easier to access guidance and counselling, including:

  • being able to access guidance and counselling in privacy
  • exchanging information before the visit
  • flexibility - being able to make appointments, but being able to see someone without an appointment as well
  • having guidance counsellors approach students
  • having a specific timetable period to go to the guidance counsellor
  • being able to see someone outside of school hours.

There was some overlap between responses to this question and positive aspects that students had listed, particularly with respect to the characteristics of guidance counsellors. Students thought it was easier to access guidance and counselling from people who were friendly, trustworthy and approachable. Being non-judgemental, and being close to the students in terms of age, gender and ethnicity were also desired characteristics for small numbers of students.

Many students said that having support from another person could make it easier to access guidance and counselling. Most commonly, this involved being accompanied to make or attend an appointment by a trusted friend or, less often, a family member. A similar number of students said that it was easier if they knew the guidance counsellor before approaching them for guidance.

Challenges related to guidance and counselling

ERO asked whether students thought there were negative aspects of guidance and counselling at their school. Eleven percent of students reported that there were. Despite the low overall number of students saying that seeing someone about guidance and counselling was definitely not acceptable, social stigma and fear of being judged was cited by more than a quarter of those students who identified negative aspects of guidance and counselling at their schools. Just under a quarter of these students cited either privacy or confidentiality concerns – privacy relating to being seen to be going to the guidance counsellor, and confidentiality relating to the counsellor passing on information that the student did not want shared (e.g. with parents, or others at the school).

A few students identified other negative aspects, including:

  • the character of the guidance counsellor (judgemental and biased, difficult to relate to, untrustworthy, hypocritical)
  • the guidance counsellor being unable to help
  • having to take time out of class
  • other people using the counselling service for what the students see as trivial issues.

What makes it harder to access guidance and counselling?

Responses to this question were similar to those about the negative aspects of guidance and counselling. Most commonly, students said that they were worried about being judged by their peers for seeking guidance and counselling, or being bullied and talked about negatively. Other factors associated with the school environment were:

  • privacy matters (i.e. the office being in a public area)
  • not having time to go
  • not knowing who the guidance counsellor was
  • not knowing how to make an appointment
  • the guidance counsellor being busy or otherwise unavailable.

The second most commonly cited barrier was embarrassment or shyness on the part of the students. This was sometimes due to the nature of their problem. If the problem was personal, serious, or complicated, it was more difficult for students to discuss. A few students said it was particularly hard to talk about mistakes that they had made, in case the guidance counsellor or their peers judged them. A few students also said that they would find it hard to trust someone with their problems. Additionally, a few students found it intimidating to seek guidance and counselling by themselves.

Other barriers were relational. Some students said that it was more difficult to openly share information when they did not have an existing relationship with the guidance counsellor. A few students reported that they were unable to relate to the guidance counsellor, because of differences in age, ethnicity or gender.

What would students change?

By far the most common response to this question was that students would make no changes (42 percent of responses). The next most common response was “I don’t know” or similar (19 percent of responses).

Where students said they would make changes, these included:

  • making the guidance and counselling service easier to access – e.g. available at all times including after school or during lunchtimes
  • having more guidance counsellors
  • raising the profile of the guidance counsellor within the school
  • moving the guidance counsellor’s office to allow for more privacy
  • making it more socially acceptable to see someone for guidance and counsel