Schools Given Choice Under Chaplaincy Changes
Thursday, 8th September 2011 at 10:07 am
Schools will be able to choose whether to employ a chaplain or a secular student welfare worker under changed to the National School Chaplaincy Program announced by the Gillard Government.
The Gillard Government says changes to the National School Chaplaincy Program mean that schools will be able to choose the type of support that best meet the needs of their students.
Under the changes, Minister for School Education Peter Garrett says from next year, school communities will be able to choose to employ either a chaplain or a secular student welfare worker.
The changes also aim to strengthen the scheme through the introduction of minimum qualifications, benchmark standards for service providers, and improvements to the complaints management system, according to the government.
Garrett announced an extra $222 million in funding for the chaplaincy program, which will is to be extended to an extra 1000 schools from 2012, with priority given to schools serving disadvantaged areas or in regional or remote locations.
Garrett says chaplains are doing great work, however the government wants to give school greater choice – those schools that would prefer a secular welfare worker instead of a chaplain will be able to employ one.
The scheme is to be re-named the National School Chaplaincy and Student Welfare Program.
Peak youth support body The Australian Youth Affairs Coalition (AYAC) says it is heartened by the news the program will be extended to include secular youth and welfare workers.
Andrew Cummings, Executive Director of AYAC says they are very pleased that minimum qualifications will be introduced, requiring all new chaplains to complete a Certificate IV in Youth Work or an equivalent qualification.
Cummings says AYAC is particularly pleased that the Minister has placed a strong emphasis on the quality and value of qualified youth workers in schools.
He says the youth sector has recognised the positive impact youth workers have had on schools for a long time and welcome the Government’s acknowledgment of this.
The Australian Greens spokesperson for youth affairs, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, says the Greens welcome the announcement after campaigning for changes at the 2010 election.
Hanson-Young says the Greens have been saying for years a major problem with the programme was it forced schools into getting only a chaplain, rather than someone with basic qualifications.
She says the Greens will be monitoring the changes to the chaplaincy programme to ensure the government keeps its promises to amend the faults in a scheme which costs taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
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.
For more information, visit www.deewr.gov.au/schoolchaplaincy