Counselling in schools

The modern world is impacting on the hauora of our ākonga in numerous ways. We want to help with this.

The Counselling in Schools initiative kicked off in September 2021. It funds around 200 schools over four years to bring in local community counselling support for their ākonga, and to support the care efforts of kaiako and kaiāwhina.

This will help schools be a place of shelter and connection for ākonga, as well as a place of learning.

If you’re a Counselling in Schools school and you need support or advice, contact your regional office.

Regional Ministry office

Our why: School as a place of shelter and connection

The way we come together to guide our ākonga through the good and the bad shapes how they see us and who they become.

When things aren’t going well for our ākonga it takes an enormous amount of courage and effort just to come to school, let alone concentrate and learn. It can be a lonely place for our ākonga. It’s also a hard thing for us as whānau, kaiako and kaiāwhina to see.

Sometimes our ākonga haven’t learnt the skills to understand and express how they feel inside and to reach out for help. They’re seeking reliable and dependable adults who take notice and have the confidence, training and instincts to guide them when they need help.

Which is where Counselling in Schools comes in. Counselling in Schools brings in local community counselling practitioners to support kaiako and kaiāwhina as they care for ākonga and make school a place of shelter and connection, as well as a place of learning.

The way we come together for our ākonga means everything to them. They’ll remember — and they’ll reward us with their trust, courage, talent, tenacity and spirit.

Poipoia te kakano kia puawai. When we nurture the seeds of potential within tamariki, they grow.

How Counselling in Schools works

The funding for Counselling in Schools is available in selected regions and to schools the Ministry considers have the greatest need.

Those schools work with their local community providers and the Ministry to shape counselling support that best suits their school environment, culture, ākonga and whānau. Schools and approved community providers have been through a Ministry tender and selection process.

We use the term 'counselling' broadly. It’s about providing the best solutions for the situation and the people involved. Schools have been working with community-based providers to put in place supports for ākonga and their whānau, whole-school or group initiatives. Where needed, referrals will be made to other services or professionals in their community.

Examples of the counselling support schools have put in place include:

  • a counsellor working one-on-one with ākonga
  • therapies such as music, art, equine therapies
  • whole-school wellbeing initiatives, such as support for school leaders to enhance and promote wellbeing through the curriculum, school and kura culture.

How the Ministry has approached funding

The Government has provided $44 million over four years for the Counselling in Schools initiative. This is distinct from but complements the numerous other wellbeing initiatives available to schools, such as Mana Ake, Social Workers in Schools, additional counselling positions in secondary schools, and school lunches.

Most secondary schools already have onsite counsellors, so while we’re working with a few area and smaller secondary schools, Counselling in Schools is mainly rolling out to selected primary and intermediate schools.

We’ve prioritised funding to Te Rūnanga Nui o ngā Kura Kaupapa Māori o Aotearoa and Ngā Kura a Iwi o Aotearoa to develop an approach to counselling support for learners in Māori medium kura.

We’ve prioritised funding to schools whose ākonga, we believe, are being most impacted by current circumstances. We’ve used the new Equity Index because it estimates the range of need in communities. The Index has helped us to select schools based on the number of ākonga who are disadvantaged. We’ve also considered other existing support schools have in their community.  

We’re focusing on selected schools in the following regions:

  • Te Tai Tokerau
  • Auckland
  • Waikato
  • Hawkes Bay/Tairawhiti
  • Taranaki/Manawatu/Whanangui
  • Wellington
  • Canterbury
  • Otago/Southland.

The community providers available to support schools

Through a national tendering process the Ministry has contracted community organisations to provide counselling support in the regions listed. These community organisations have been chosen because they have shown they can provide the age and culturally appropriate services required in schools. For regions where it has been more difficult to provide a service through the national tender process, regions have been contracting smaller local counselling providers to work with their schools. Each region has a regionally based Ministry contact who works with the school and provider to make sure that a school delivery plan is in place.

Community providers may employ counsellors, social workers, occupational therapists, psychotherapists, psychologists, creative art therapists, music therapists, teachers, mental health nurses.

Counselling practitioners are either registered with a professional body, or work under the supervision of a practitioner who is registered to a professional body.  

How we’ll know we’re making a difference

Our ākonga are looking for someone they relate to and a place where they feel good. Already we’ve been getting feedback from schools and ākonga.


My special place is Whaea B’s office because you get to play with a lot of stuff, like play with toys and sand or even animals and listen to music and it is awesome. I like her funky furniture… Every week I go there and talk about stuff that’s happening... This place makes me feel good. 


The reality is without [our practitioner] how would we support these kids? Kids are coming from volatile environments, we’re not counsellors, we try and support them, someone needs to help them process that. 

[Our practitioner] is offering support for staff too, coping with work-life balance and strategies in the classroom. We don’t normally have that as an option as staffthey take on baggage from everything from their kids so it is nice to be able to say ‘Go and see [name of the person].’ Staff already know him so it’s easy to walk through the door. 

Education Review Office

The Education Review Office (ERO) will gather information from counsellors, schools, whānau, ākonga, hapū, iwi and other community groups to evaluate the Counselling in Schools initiative. We’ll use this evaluation to inform how in the future we provide a range of counselling services and how we can use what has worked well to expand these services to other schools.

The difference we want to make for ākonga

We want our ākonga to experience:

  • awhi mai, awhi atu — opportunities to share thoughts, feelings, and experiences to understand how to navigate these
  • ihi — the power and strength to confront and deal with challenging situations
  • wairuatanga — spiritual wellbeing, through being connected to their immediate and wider networks
  • whakapuāwai — abundance and prosperity, through having their hauora supported.

It is through manaakitanga (care) and whanaungatanga (close connections) that our ākonga form relationships that are strong enough to cope with the big and small challenges that will come their way.

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