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r o l l e s n u o C s n o i t c e fl e R Vol. 1 No. 1

November 2011

In this edition

The newsletter for Counsellors in the non-government education sector

Welcome to

Counsellor Reflections!

IEUA-QNT has launched this newsletter specifically for Counsellors in schools to help open the lines of communication, and provide our Counsellor members with individual support.

Our union hopes that you find this newsletter a useful resource for professional advice about the issues that affect you most. If you would like to discuss any topics covered in this newsletter, or make suggestions about issues you would like to see included in future editions, please contact our union by email at or by phone on 1800 177 937.

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Welcome! Catholic Counsellors Seek Improvements BCE Conducts Guidance Counsellor Review How Your Position Description Affects Your Remuneration Ambiguity in the Role of Counsellors

Catholic School Counsellors Seek Improved Conditions in Upcoming Negotiations A draft log of claims has been compiled in preparation of upcoming Catholic sector collective negotiations. Within this log of claims, are certain requests for improvement to the workplace conditions of School Counsellors, Careers Counsellors, and Vocational Education and Training Co-ordinators. Catholic school-based Counsellors seek recognition of the role they perform with those of their colleagues in the public sector. School Counsellors seek parity in wages and conditions with those currently offered in the public sector. School-based counsellors undertake significant responsibility for the educational, social, and emotional needs of students. These employees arguably undertake roles with similar demands as their colleagues in the public sector. Similarly, the role of Careers Counsellors within Catholic schools has become increasingly more crucial, as students rely on the support of these staff to map out study and employment pathways and provide advice. However, in many circumstances, these roles have lacked proper position descriptions, acknowledgment and resources. As a result, in this draft log of claims, Careers Counsellors in the Catholic sector seek a provision in regard to the structure, remuneration, and time release provided to undertake the role. The role of Vocational Education and Training (VET) Co-ordinators has also become more essential, with VET being an expanding curriculum provision. The co-ordination and management of this curriculum needs to receive proper recognition. The draft log of claims seeks to provide this recognition by asking the employer to consider the structure, remuneration, and time release given to VET co-ordinators. Support in maintaining accreditation to teach the subject is also sought. Chapters have been asked to consider this log of claims in preparation for upcoming negotiations.

BCE Conducts Guidance Counsellor Classification and Salary Review

The Range of Counsellors Roles

Following requests from employees, Brisbane Catholic Education (BCE) established a small group to review Guidance Counsellor classification and salaries. IEUA-QNT requested to be involved in this group, which first met 19 July, 2011.

National Conference

At a recent meeting of this review group, BCE tabled a draft proposal which includes salary increases and the introduction of new wage steps to the classification structure. However, this draft proposal would leave single degree Guidance Counsellors’ salaries still substantially below those of their public sector colleagues.

Member Profile

The proposed contemporary wage classification scale also includes five lower scale steps which would further erode structural parity (as far as it exists) with the state sector. Your union has questioned the necessity and appropriateness of this inclusion. At this stage our union does not support BCE’s proposal as it cannot adequately address the concerns of our Guidance Counsellor members. The final joint working party meeting will be held 23 November. If you would like more information about how this issue affects you, please contact our union Organiser Gaye Vale at gvale@

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Positions Descriptions How Your Position Description Affects Your Remuneration The key to delivering appropriate levels of remuneration and reward is through accurate, in-depth and contemporary position descriptions that recognise the qualifications held by Counsellors and the duties they perform. Counsellors, particularly in comparison to other educational professionals, often lack consistency in positions descriptions across the sector.

- Contemporary After becoming established in a position, it is quite common for an employee to begin taking on extra, and more complex, duties. In this situation it is imperative that an updated position description reflects any changes in the nature of the job.

Position descriptions provided by certain employers are very comprehensive, whilst others fail to adequately reflect the range of duties performed. An adequate position description is:

- Comprehensive A sufficiently detailed position description lists all duties performed by the employee, regardless of how insignificant they may seem.

- Specific There should be no room for interpretation when it comes to the tasks performed by the employee. Duties should be compiled explicitly and fully. For example, if in your position description “communication” is listed as a duty, this is not detailed enough to convey the level of the duty. Communication could just mean verbal discussion over the phone or it could mean being responsible for a whole range of duties. It is highly important that such a distinction in made in your position description.

Our union encourages members to check the adequacy of their position descriptions and ensure that they are being remunerated at the appropriate rate. If you would like to discuss the relevance of your position description and how to take action if it is inadequate, please contact our union. Our Member Services Officers are available to provide advice about the reclassification process. If you would like more information please phone our union on 1800 177 937.

Ambiguity in the Role of Counsellors The place of Counsellors (including Guidance/School Counsellors, Careers Counsellors and VET Co-ordinators) in non-government schools is becoming increasingly important. These Counsellors undertake a challenging and varied role that offers students and parents essential support in work and study related matters. While the role of Counsellors is considered to be an essential and important component of the student support network, there are many professional issues faced by these employees.

However, Darryl says that the assistance of our union has helped him to deal with these issues, including when he was asked to increase his teaching load to six subjects in addition to VET responsibilities. “I find it assuring that I have the support of the Union in this matter,” he said.

In many cases these Counsellors undertake their employment without adequate position descriptions, acknowledgment, and resources. This is applicable to Counsellors working in any sector including within Anglican, Catholic, Lutheran, and Independent schools. IEUA-QNT member Darryl Nelson agrees that there is ambiguity within the expectations of his role as a Vocational Education and Training Coordinator in the Catholic sector. “In recent years I have found that a number of times I have had a difference of opinion with my Administration as to what constitutes a reasonable teaching load associated with this role,” he said.

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Our union is committed to supporting our counsellor members. If you believe you are in a similar situation and would like to seek clarification about the expectations of your position, please contact our union for advice on 1800 177 937.

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The Range of Counsellor Roles in Our Schools Guidance Counsellor

School Counsellor Mark Mewburn is a School Counsellor working in the Catholic sector whose role involves both careers and guidance counselling. Mark holds both teacher and counsellor qualifications; his job description suggests his role to be 50 per cent careers and 50 per cent counselling. In an average day of work Mark will have numerous one-on-one chats with students (who are either selfreferred, teacher-referred, or parentreferred) in relation to career and personal topics. Mark is also active in preparing year ten Senior Education and Training (SET) plans, helping senior students with QTAC applications, teaching a home room class, being involved in co-curricular sport, mentoring the SET plans of “at risk” students, and publishing articles in newsletters. Mark enjoys that his role allows him to help students with achieving their career goals as well as deal with their personal issues. “I’m privileged to see young men ‘drop the masks’ and trust me to listen to their story,” he said.

VET Co-ordinator As a VET Co-ordinator working in the Catholic sector, Darryl Nelson oversees School-based Traineeships and Apprenticeships in addition to his four subject teaching load. Darryl is also actively involved in the planning of year ten Senior Education and Training (SET) plans. An average day for Darryl includes teaching at least four contact lessons, attending to many emails from students and industry contacts; chasing down work experience forms from students and employers; attending meetings with colleagues, students, parents or industry contacts; organising work placements by talking to students and employers; as well as assisting Special Needs students with their vocational development. “I have managed this year to facilitate a record number of thirty School-based Traineeships and Apprenticeships all of which need to monitored,” Darryl said.

Jim Bartlett works as a Guidance Counsellor in the Catholic sector after many years teaching and administrating. Jim holds Bachelor’s degrees in Education and Arts, a Diploma of Teaching and a Master’s degree in Educational Studies (Counselling). In an average day of work Jim conducts personal counselling sessions as well as careers counselling with secondary students. In addition to these duties Jim teaches work education subjects, co-ordinates School-based traineeships and work placements, and facilitates the TAFE Schools program. Jim says it can be challenging to meet the needs of his school’s varied student population, particularly in terms of mental health and developmental concerns. However, he finds his role very rewarding. “I enjoy the privilege of helping young people find their solution to problems which are hindering their growing and learning,” he said. Jim says counsellors would benefit from more professional development opportunities in order “to remain relevant and connected to current youth issues”.

Careers Counsellor Maree Cansick’s role as a Careers/VET Coordinator in the Catholic sector involves the responsibilities of VET Co-ordinator, Career’s Co-ordinator, School Based Apprenticeship Co-ordinator, and Teacher. Maree studied a Master in Career Guidance in addition to her Bachelor of Education. In an average day Maree will do administration and organisational duties which includes: designing curriculum courses, managing the Careers program and Vocational Education compliance of the College, as well as liaising with staff, students, industry, parents, registered training organisations, middle management and the leadership team. Maree also teaches Certificate II in Business, Certificate I in Work Education and a Personal Development Year 9 class. Maree finds it challenging to manage all of these duties, and says it is frustrating that Career Counsellors often do not have dedicated roles in schools. “Career counsellors need to have access to all students in every year level to personally meet them and help them in their pathway planning,” she said.

Counsellors Attend National Conference to Discuss Professional Issues More than two hundred Counsellors and Psychologists employed in non-government and state schools attended the Australian Guidance and Counselling Association 2011 Conference held in Brisbane from 14 to 16 September. The conference was an opportunity for professional development, as well as a forum to discuss issues affecting the sector. AGCA Representative Ed Riley said the conference allowed attendees working in various roles to understand and relate to the duties and expectations of their colleagues. “Participants tended to share ideas, experiences, and reactions resulting in many myths being debunked and an enhanced regard for each other’s situations,” he said. Topics covered included: “Building Student Capacity to Cope with Harassment and Bullying”, “Successful Strategies, Tips and Techniques for Student Motivation”, and “Cyberbullying: definition, measurement, prevention and intervention”. Further information about the conference can be found at the Queensland Guidance Counselling Association website via

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Member Snapshot

flections Counsellor Reflections Counsellor Reflections Counsellor Reflections Counsell The secondary role has a strong focus on individual and group counselling. There is less assessment and it seems to involve less contact with the family unit. All of these facets are still there, but to a lesser degree. I really enjoy counselling adolescent students and it is possibly my greatest strength – it is counselling in its “true form”. The emotional concerns that students face in secondary are often much more challenging; for some students the counsellor is the only significant adult who is willing to listen to them and help them to find a solution to their issues. I find that the best aspect of my job is the intrinsic reward of knowing that I have supported students, staff and families to reflect and talk about their concerns. It is rewarding to know that I help to provide students and families with a tool kit to gain resilience and problem solving skills for the future.

Kim Rienecker St Columbans College, Caboolture & Queen of Apostles, Stafford

After having worked as a teacher for more than ten years I was ready to expand my career pathways. I was encouraged by the school leadership team to study to become an APRE (Assistant to the Principal - Religious Education). Soon after completing this qualification, Brisbane Catholic Education (BCE) began employing Guidance Counsellors. After working closely with the Counsellor at my school, I realised that one day this would become my career direction. My interests began to shift more towards students’ social and emotional well-being realising that learning was difficult for many children facing society’s challenges. I then became responsible for the implementation of the Skills for Adolescence programme at my school. The pathway towards working in mental health began to unfold for me. I felt I had achieved what I wanted to in my teaching role but enjoyed working in education, so the next step was to commence the study to become a Guidance Counsellor. I undertook a Master’s Degree in Educational Studies (Guidance and Counselling) through the University of Queensland while I was on maternity leave. I graduated in 2003 before returning to teaching. In 2006 I was offered a counselling secondment and was thrilled to finally be working in the profession. Twelve months later I obtained a continuing position. Now having worked continuously in the role for over 5 years, I have caught the study bug again. I am presently working towards a Graduate Diploma in Psychological Studies, on the road to becoming a registered Psychologist. I currently work across two schools in the Catholic sector – a primary and a secondary college whereby I fulfill a part time role at each. In these roles I support students and their families in their social and emotional challenges. I work collaboratively with teachers, School Officers, the Support Team, the School Leadership Team, House Coordinators, the Campus Minister and other agencies to implement interventions to enhance students’ access to curriculum. The counseling role in both of my part time positions is predominantly based on developing social and emotional competencies. I love the role in both of my schools, though they are quite different. The primary gives me a broad scope of psychometric assessments, a large focus on supporting students to access curriculum, a very close collaboration with the family unit, as well as the opportunity to facilitate well-being programs, run group counselling sessions, and consult with teachers on behavioural concerns.

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I think Counsellors face professional issues that many of our colleagues in the education system are unaware of. Because of the confidentiality of the role, very few people know of the challenging issues we face on a daily basis. If a teacher has a “thought-provoking” day they can chat about it to their colleague or friends. In our role, confidentiality is paramount, so mentally processing some of our caseload can be difficult at times. I joined our union in 1983, and I have a strong belief in supporting an organisation that consistently works for community respect for our profession and strives to gain appropriate and fair pay conditions. I was really pleased by the individual support our union offered me when I undertook a teaching exchange to London in 1995. It’s also comforting to know that our union is there to consult with if any issues arise. They won’t act on anything if you don’t want them to, but their objective opinion is often invaluable.

WHO SHOULD RECEIVE THIS NEWSLETTER Counsellor Reflections is a publication for all School Counsellors, Careers Counsellors, and VET Co-ordinators who are members of IEUA-QNT. However, some of these members may not yet be on the mailing list. If you know of colleagues who are in this situation, please ask them to contact our union’s membership team. Our union also invites feedback and suggestions regarding the content of this publication. Please contact our union by phone at 1800 177 937 or via email at to discuss this newsletter.

Counsellor Reflections was prepared by Elise Cuthbertson

Editor: Mr Terry Burke, General Secretary IEUA-QNT PO BOX 418, FORTITUDE VALLEY QLD 4006 PH: (07) 3839 7020 FX: (07) 3839 7021 Email: Website: ABN : 74 662 601 045