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.

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 2012, is available to down load at the link below and sets out how the ICSS should operate to ensure that the service provided for pupils’ is safe, accessible and of a high professional standard.

2015 ICSS Poster Competition

Pupils in post primary and special schools that have access to the Independent Counselling Service for Schools (ICSS) were invited create a poster to promote the ICSS and its role in supporting good emotional health and wellbeing. The competition was divided into three categories; age 11-14, 15-18 and special schools and the winning entries are:

1st place

  • ‘Open Your Mind’ by Dean Manson, Wellington College (Age 16)
  • ‘Don’t Bottle Things Up’ by Claire Young, St Louis Grammar, Kilkeel (Age 14)
  • ‘Counselling Helped Me’ by Michael Maguire, St Gerard’s Educational Centre.

2nd place

  • ‘Rise above It’ by Brigita Zukauskiaite, St Columban’s College, Kilkeel (Age 13)
  • ‘No problem too big or small’ by Anita Dennison, St Pauls Bessbrook (Age 18)
  • ‘Counselling helped me’ by Declan Jordan St Gerard’s Educational Centre.

 3rd place

  • ‘Here to Listen’ by Karl Folland, Wellington College (Age 16)
  • ‘ICSS Empowerment’ by Abbey McCrory, Friends School (Age 11-14)
  • ‘ICSS Share Your Problems’ by Jodie Devlin, Jordanstown School

Copies of the winning entries are available below:

National Children's Bureau (NCB)

The National Children's Bureau (NCB) has published a framework for schools, to promote social and emotional well-being and recognise the early onset of mental heath issues affecting young people. Please see link below:

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