Counselling service in schools

Access to professional counselling support is available for young people in post-primary schools during difficult and vulnerable periods in their lives. Counselling contributes to tackling barriers to learning which may result from personal trauma, difficult home circumstances, stress, bullying and child abuse.

Independent Counselling Service for Schools (ICSS)

Counselling in schools can make an important contribution to supporting the emotional health and wellbeing of young people. Pupils experiencing stress or emotional problems find it difficult to reach their potential. A ‘listening ear’ can sometimes make a great difference.

The Department of Education has funded an independent counselling service for post-primary aged pupils’ in grant-aided schools since 2007.The Independent Counselling Service for Schools (ICSS) is there to provide a ‘listening ear’ and works as an integral part of a schools pastoral care system to help provide this support to pupils. The support provided conforms to high professional standards and current best practice for school based counselling. All counsellors have at least a Diploma in Counselling and are experienced in working with young people.


Young people can self refer to this service as well as being referred by the school. A minimum amount of counselling time is allocated to those schools which use the service. 98% of post-primary schools and 100% of special schools (whose post primary pupils can avail of the service) are signed up to use the free service.

Schools in the post-primary sector report that the availability of the counselling service has been a major boost to their capacity to support young people.

Independent Counselling Service for Schools (ICSS) Handbook

The ICSS is provided under contractual arrangements by organisation(s) that have undergone a public tendering process. The service is delivered using standards and protocols based on good counselling practice within the organisational context of the school.

The “Independent Counselling Service for Schools Handbook”, published in September 2020, sets out how the ICSS should operate to ensure that the service provided for pupils’ is safe, accessible and of a high professional standard.

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