Independent Counselling Service for Schools

Information on the Independent Counselling Service for Schools (ICSS).

The Independent Counselling Service for Schools (ICSS) is managed by the Education Authority on behalf of the Department of Education (DE), to support the emotional health and wellbeing of young people.

At any time pupils may need additional emotional support, beyond the normal pastoral care offered by school staff. Pupils experiencing emotional problems may find it difficult to engage with the education process to reach their potential and may appreciate the opportunity to speak to an adult who is not directly involved with their education.

Independent school based counselling provides one such opportunity.

The ICSS is managed by the EA Contract Manager:

Sheila Gamble
ICSS Contract Manager
Children & Young Peoples Services
Education Authority
Maydown House
1 Maydown Road,
L’Derry BT47 6UF
E: [email protected]


Frequently Asked Questions

What is Counselling?

The ICSS handbook defines counselling as:

“… a way of helping young people through a process of talking, listening and empowerment. Young people are provided with a safe place to express their feelings and thoughts about what they perceive to be an issue in their life. Counselling can help young people to understand themselves and their situation better. It can give them new ways of coping with issues that cause them upset therefore increasing their capacity for learning. Successful counselling is based on trust, self-motivation and commitment.”

Who can access counselling?

The Independent Counselling Service for Schools (ICSS) is accessible to all post primary aged pupils attending grant-aided post primary schools and special schools.

Where does counselling take place?

Counselling is provided in school but it is independent of the school. The counselling support provided conforms to high professional standards and current best practice for school-based counselling, specifically in respect of counsellor qualifications, supervision requirements, safeguarding practices and continuous professional development.

Who can refer to counselling?

Referrals for counselling sessions may be made by the young person, parents or school personnel.

A parent who wishes to make a referral should seek an appointment through the Key Contact.

A member of school staff who wishes to make a referral must discuss it first with the pupil and seek their agreement. This approach values the pupil and respects his/her right to be involved in decisions. It is important for school staff to consider if a referral to counselling is the most appropriate response to the young person’s situation or if alternative support may be more appropriate. Counselling is not compulsory and a pupil may choose whether or not to attend. School Counselling is not a disciplinary measure and must not be used as such.

How do I make a referral?

Each school has a Key Contact for the counselling service. This is normally a senior member of staff who is the link between the school and the counselling service. Check with your school who the Key Contact is and talk to them about counselling.

Last updated: 21/07/2023