A psychology expert has criticised “patchy” counselling provision in Scottish schools and called for all pupils to have access to the service.

Mhairi Thurston, of Abertay University, said nearly a quarter of million pupils do not have a school counsellor despite a recent report by mental health charity SAMH which estimated that three children in every classroom will experience mental health problems by age 16.

She said there is a “consensus emerging about the compelling benefits” of school counselling.

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The lecturer presented the case for increased access to school counselling in Scotland at a mental health conference in Edinburgh earlier this week.

She said: “School-based counselling provision in Scotland is currently patchy, with 14 councils having no formal school-based counselling services.

“This means that nearly a quarter of a million pupils have no access to this vital service. Scotland lags behind both Wales and Northern Ireland who have Government-funded, school-based counselling provision with a counsellor in every school.

“There is a consensus emerging about the compelling benefits of school counselling.

“In Wales, targeted school-based interventions have led to improvements in pupil wellbeing and mental health, reducing levels of exclusion by 31% and increasing pupil attainment.”

Scottish Labour is calling for all pupils to have access to school-based counselling and the Scottish Government is currently reviewing the services as part of its new mental health strategy.