The need for educational counselling centres came from the segregation of educational and psychological counselling and the regional differences in the availability of counselling services. The quality of the services offered to students with learning difficulties and special educational needs, children with social problems, their parents and teachers suffered because of these regional differences. The availability of counselling services was also affected by the shortage of qualified support specialist.
Regional educational counselling centres were established in 2009. The study gives an overview of the current performance of the centres and whether the services provided are satisfactory to the beneficiaries.
The opportunities to support children with special needs are still lacking in schools as well as kindergartens. The situation is worse in rural areas due to financial difficulties and the shortage of specialist.
Most schools and kindergartens have speech therapists. The increasing number of cases causes the need for more specialised help. Despite the increasing demand, other specialist are still underrepresented.
In the survey conducted, three quarters of participants claim to be aware of the services and support offered by regional educational counselling centres. However, there is need for continuous and wider contribution of information. It would be useful to raise awareness of teachers about cases of children/students in need for special help and support.
Near half of people participating in the survey had used the services of counselling centres, but more than that had recommended the services to other people. The satisfaction with the services offered was high, and counselling easy to access. Some people find it difficult to access the counselling services, particularly people living in areas, which are less socio-economically developed.
Educational institutions would like to see more feedback from the educational counselling centres. It is important to make counselling accessible to everyone and that the counselling is consistent and would not be limited to few session.
Constant monitoring is important to keep the system well functioning. Estonian Education Information System (EHIS) helps to get an overview about speech therapists, special education teachers and psychologist working in the regions, but leaves out social workers. To get a coherent overview of the specialist working, this needs to be addressed.