Date Uploaded: 16/05/2016
It can lead to wrong post-school choices and an absence of support for vulnerable teens, who may be struggling with issues such as bullying or family disharmony.
Ending up on the wrong career path can be devastating and costly for school-leavers - first-year college drop-out rates of about 15pc are testament to how many make a mistake.
A student with personal problems will struggle academically.
Four years of cuts - and four years of surveys from the Institute of Guidance Counsellors ( IGC) - have exposed significant shortcomings in the guidance and counselling services in second-level schools.
Guidance and counselling can often be regarded as desirable add-ons to exam subjects. But there is emphatic evidence of the crucial role they play for all students and all the way through second-level. It's not only about helping fifth- and sixth-years with CAO choices.
The Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) has highlighted the need to target junior-cycle students, to ensure that they make informed choices about subjects and the level at which they study them, so as to lay the foundations for senior cycle and beyond.
The ESRI has pointed to the particular value students place on one-to-one sessions. Guidance counsellors are a particularly strong source of support for young people from working-class backgrounds, from families with no history of third-level education.
Issues that have come to the fore in the IGC audit include greater reliance on unqualified staff - some of whom may have done nothing more than a 'quick-fix' weekend counselling course - and how cuts have translated into even more privilege for the well-off.
It does not make for a picture of a healthy service, one that serves all the children of the country equally, as it should do.
Journalist: Katherine Donnelly