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Minister pledges €29m to improve school counselling services

Education Minister Li Andersson says more psychologists and counsellors are needed to stop bullying in Finnish schools.  

Opetusministeri Li Andersson (vas.) Ykkösaamun vieraana 19. lokakuuta.
Education Minister Li Andersson on 19 October 2019 Image: Yle

Finland's Minister of Education Li Andersson wants to more closely address bullying in schools. Appearing in an Yle Ykkösaamu interview on Saturday, Andersson said that 29 million euros in additional funding will be devoted to increasing counselling resources in Finnish schools during the current government term.

"Bullying at school leaves life-long scars and life-long trauma. It should be treated as a violent act, as it is often a matter of both mental and physical violence," she said.

The 29-million-euro sum will be used to improve the availability of psychologists and counsellors in both primary and secondary schools. Andersson says her ministry is preparing new pupil-to-professional ratios that will be enforced on a nationwide level to ensure that all schoolchildren will have equal services.

"We've set an ambitious goal to raise our education level, so this means we've also got to make sure that all children feel confident about going to school," the minister said.

Too much regional variance

She said that there is currently too much variation in the availability of professional help at Finland's schools.

"One single school counsellor can have between 700 and 2,000 pupils as clients at present, or be responsible for up to 12 different locations," Andersson said.

Andersson said that the education ministry plans to introduce the new ratios in Finland's secondary schools already during this parliamentary term.

"It is linked to the government's goal of extending compulsory education. If we enact a major change that aims to make all young people study until the age of 18, then we have to make sure that student support services are improved," she said.

United message required

Andersson hopes that she can entice all of Finland's parliamentary parties to participate in drawing up a national action plan to combat school bullying.

"I'm inviting all of the parliamentary parties to join this work because this is a matter that transcends party lines. We need a united message from the nation's decision-makers that conveys the seriousness of the situation," she said.

During the interview, Andersson also discussed a pilot project to assess changes in learning outcomes if early childhood education in Finland was extended from one year to two years, and her initiative to do away with sibling supplements to home care allowances in order to encourage better participation in early childhood education opportunities.

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