Health, safety, and wellbeing
Mental health and counselling
The school has a responsibility to make sure you can access support, guidance, and counselling. This is called “pastoral care”.
Your right to “good guidance and counselling” at school
The Education and Training Act says that “the principal of a state school must take all reasonable steps to ensure that students get good guidance and counselling”.
In most cases, this means you will have access to support from a professionally trained school guidance counsellor. This means you can speak to someone who is trained to help you and it must be confidential.
A counsellor can’t tell your teachers or whānau about things you tell them in private without talking to you first. There are exceptions where a counsellor can pass on information, for example, if you are at risk of serious harm. For more information, see “Students and confidential school counselling” in the “Information and Privacy” chapter
Does the school have to offer counselling?
Usually, yes. Schools must take all reasonable steps to ensure you can access counselling.
In some cases, the school might not have a guidance counsellor because there are not enough students at the school for the school to be eligible for funding. Reasonable steps would include paying for an external service if it was affordable.
Do teachers and the school counsellor need to be considerate of my culture?
Ministry of Education, Te Pakiaka Tanga-a – Pastoral Care Guidelines
Yes, teachers and the school counsellor should recognise your identity and find ways to support you through affirming your culture.
This is explained by the Ministry of Education’s pastoral care guidelines for schools. Schools are expected to make sure counselling is “culturally-responsive”, which means referring to knowledge from your culture, experiences, and world views to guide conversation and activities.
For example, if you are Māori, the school counsellor should understand your whakapapa, what things are important to you and your whānau. If you give them permission, they could also contact your kaumatua for guidance.
If a teacher, staff member, or counsellor makes racist comments, this is unacceptable and goes against the school’s responsibility to create a safe environment.
For more information, see “Discrimination” later in this chapter