Schools given greater choice under expanded chaplains program
- Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth
Schools will be able to choose the type of support that best meets the needs of their students under changes to the Government’s National School Chaplaincy Program outlined today.
School Education Minister Peter Garrett said from next year, school communities will be able to choose to employ either a chaplain or a secular student welfare worker. The scheme will also be strengthened with the introduction of minimum qualifications, benchmark standards for service providers, and improvements to the complaints management system.
“The Gillard Government is committed to extending this successful scheme to up to an extra 1000 schools from 2012, with priority given to schools serving disadvantaged areas or in regional or remote locations and an extra $222 million in funding,” Mr Garrett said.
“We know chaplains are already doing great work in our school communities and I expect that many more schools will apply for funding to employ a chaplain when applications for the new round open later this year.
“But we also want to give schools greater choice. This means schools won’t miss out on applying for the program if the school community would prefer to have a secular welfare worker instead of a chaplain.
“The chaplaincy program has proven very popular and we want to make sure schools and students are getting the full benefit, which is why we held a consultation earlier this year asking what was working and what could be improved,” Mr Garrett said.
“We had strong feedback for the program to be extended to qualified secular welfare workers, which will empower principals and school communities to choose the right person for the needs and circumstances of their school. This will also provide even more help and support to kids across the country.
“The scheme will be re-named the National School Chaplaincy and Student Welfare Program to reflect its broader scope.”
Other changes to be introduced include:
- Introducing a minimum qualification for all new workers employed under the scheme – from 2012, all new chaplains or secular workers hired by schools will need to have a Certificate IV in Youth Work, Pastoral Care or equivalent qualification.
- Requiring existing chaplains without the minimum qualifications to complete two units of the Certificate IV course: Mental Health and Making Referrals. About 500 existing chaplains will have 12 months to complete the units, with the Government meeting the costs. Existing chaplains can also have their current experience and qualifications formally recognised under Recognition of Prior Learning.
- Increasing the maximum grants for schools in remote areas from $20 000 to $24 000, and giving priority for new funding to schools in regional, remote and disadvantaged areas.
- Introducing new benchmark standards for service providers, including the provision of ongoing professional development and support, monitoring of service delivery, and appropriate risk management and compliance requirements.
- Strengthening the program’s complaints management processes so that each school will be required to keep a complaints log and have a designated complaints officer, and parents and students are fully informed about how they can raise any concerns they may have.
Mr Garrett said the changes reflected the feedback received throughout the Government’s extensive community consultation process earlier this year. They also implement a number of recommendations from the Commonwealth Ombudsman, particularly around strengthened administrative processes and requiring minimum qualifications.
“It was great to see so many organisations, schools and individuals taking part in our consultation and their feedback and suggestions played an important part in the Government’s decisions to expand the scheme,” he said.
“There are already almost 2700 schools taking part in the program, and the Gillard Government has committed an additional $222 million to extend the scheme to 2014 and provide funding for up to 1000 more schools.
“We want as many schools as possible to benefit from what has been a popular and successful program.”
The new guidelines will be published shortly. More information on the changes to the scheme is contained in the attached fact sheet and online at www.deewr.gov.au/schoolchaplaincy.