Supporting student wellbeing in Queensland
School chaplains have been providing social, emotional and spiritual support in schools for 25 years. Throughout 2014 we collected information on their activities and impact and we are pleased to share our findings with you.
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So who are the SU QLD Chaplains?
All school chaplains meet the minimum qualification standards set by the state and federal governments.1
90% of SU QLD chaplains exceed these requirements with qualifications at the Diploma level and above across Youth Work, Human Services, Education and Theology/Ministry.
Meet our longest serving chaplain
Name: Matt Brady
Years of service: 19
Location: Burnside State High School
Qualifications: Bachelor of Social Science
Why I became a chaplain... "I love what I do – there's no other job that would be better than this. I can't think of a role that's more impacting, particularly for someone who wants to look after those doing it tough – and many of our nation's kids are doing it tough these days."
So what does a chaplain do?2
School chaplains provide social, emotional and spiritual support in schools, out-worked through seven key role areas.
In chaplaincy, spirituality is integral to overall wellbeing. Promoting positive spirituality permeates all aspects of a chaplain's work.
So much goes on in the everyday life of a school and chaplains participate in many aspects of it. They coach sporting teams, go on camps and excursions, attend school events, help out in school musicals and support student leaders.
It takes a village to raise a child. Chaplains facilitate links between the school and local organisations like churches and community-based support services to enhance the support available to students, parents/carers and staff.
Mentoring and Role Modelling
Chaplains model positive values, attitudes and behaviours to students and mentor students towards positive goals and outcomes. They help students become better role models for others and provide access to adult role models and mentors.
There is a close link between learning and wellbeing. Chaplains support the educational goals schools have for their students through in-class support, talking to students about school issues and running breakfast clubs.
While spirituality permeates all aspects of a chaplain's role, chaplains also play a specific role in helping students to explore issues of faith and spirituality through spiritual conversations, groups and activities.
Chaplains have a range of organisational and professional responsibilities on top of their direct practice work. These can include attending meetings, writing reports, participating in professional development and engaging in professional supervision.
Where can I find a Chaplain?
Chaplains are commonly found in their natural habitat – with students.
They spend over 80% of their time during school lunch breaks with students – in the playground, in the chaplain’s room, running chaplaincy activities or participating in school activities.
How many schools have Chaplains in QLD?
Why School Chaplains?
One of the most important features of school chaplaincy is that it complements rather than duplicates the work of other school-based support staff.
School chaplains operate in the 'promotion, prevention and early intervention' space rather than the 'treatment and continuing care' space inhabited by many other helping professionals. They work in a support role, rather than in a counselling or case management role, referring complex issues onto other professionals and specialists.
Another important feature of school chaplaincy is its high regard for spirituality, an integral part of overall health and wellbeing. School chaplains provide opportunities for students, parents/carers and staff in schools to explore their spirituality and to take advantage of spiritual strengths, assets and resources available to them.
What year levels are the students who speak to Chaplains
They say, "Prevention is better than cure." Chaplains help students in the early stages of their development so they are better equipped to manage issues in their later years.
Are Chaplains engaging with ‘At-Risk’ Students?9
School chaplains are available to everyone, but are particularly interested in supporting those in the school community who might be considered 'disadvantaged' or 'at-risk'.
Students who identify as Indigenous, are in-care or have disabilities can experience on-going difficulties across a range of areas as they grow older. Through early intervention activities, school chaplains are supporting at-risk students, increasing their chances of experiencing better life outcomes.
What kind of issues do students talk to chaplains about?
Students approach school chaplains for support across a broad range of personal, family, friendship and school issues.
"I was bullied on my first day at school by a group of girls. At the time I didn't know any English, so it was hard for me to communicate. I was angry and I felt very alone. On my fourth day at school I was suspended. I had taken matters into my own hands and smashed the girls who bullied me. Instead of getting bullied, I became the bully.
My chaplain Sarah was always there for me. Sarah would come into my classes and show me how to leave without getting angry or throwing things at other students. My chaplain showed me how to value and respect myself. She showed me that there are people who care about me and love me. I trusted my chaplain with everything.
To this day, I am still very close to her and I'm thankful to have known someone like her."
During her final year at high school, Dolores was awarded School Vice Captain.
The top 5 issues students face10
What are the different ways a chaplain assists with these issues?11
School chaplains respond to day-to-day issues that students face.
While they are not employed to do counselling or case management, chaplains respond effectively to student issues, including through referral to relevant internal and external agencies.
Who do chaplains talk to?4
School chaplaincy services are available to everyone in a school, and students, parents/carers and staff all access chaplaincy services. While chaplains aren’t employed to counsel or case manage, they do complement other school support services by offering support through pastoral conversations.
Chaplains' Programs and Activities Per Term6
In addition to pastoral conversations, chaplains also facilitate various programs and activities.
135 Mentoring and Role Modelling
132 Breakfast Programs
92 Community Development Events and Activities
69 Educational Support Programs
9 Grief and Loss Programs
...And they manage to do all of this in only three days per week, on average.
Yep, they're pretty amazing
Imagine what they could achieve if they worked five days a week!
About the research
School chaplains do great work promoting social, emotional and spiritual wellbeing in schools. We know this because every year, we hear story after story about the amazing contribution they make to the lives of students, parents/carers and staff - the people know chaplains, work alongside them and directly benefit from their work. In this report, we have been pleased to tell this recurring story in a new way - through data, graphs and infographics.
Throughout 2014, we collected information on the demographics, activities and impact of our school chaplains. This came from three sources:
- Two 'Chaplaincy Activity Surveys' conducted in term 2 and 3, 2014. In each survey, we asked chaplains to record information from their pastoral conversations across one week and to record their involvement in programs and activities across the entire term. For both terms, the sampling frame was 100% (610 chaplains for term 2 and 595 chaplains for term 3). The response rate for term 2 was 67% (409 chaplains) and for term 3 was 53% (318 chaplains).
- 'Annual Review' data for school chaplains for 2014 was collated. This information was collected from 2551 school chaplaincy stakeholders who rated the performance of 501 school chaplains on key competencies.
- General demographic information from SU Qld chaplaincy employment data.
Not all the information collected was included in this report. This report is a 'snapshot' of the information that from our experience, is the information people are most interested in when it comes to finding out more about school chaplaincy.
Thanks to the chaplains and field workers who gave their time to record data, to McCrindle who helped us put together our 'Chaplaincy Activity Surveys' and to SU Qld staff who crunched numbers, interpreted data and designed infographics that have helped us understand the story of school chaplaincy better than we did before.
Behind the data
- In 2014, the minimum qualification for a school chaplain under the National School Chaplaincy Program (NSCP) was a Certificate IV in Youth Work or Pastoral Care or equivalent qualification. School chaplains could be employed without these minimum qualifications under certain circumstances (EG – appointments to remote chaplaincy positions). These chaplains would still need to be otherwise suitable and acceptable to the school, meet all other criteria, complete two nationally accredited units in referral and mental health and commit to ongoing study towards the minimum qualifications within 12 months. Only 20 chaplains (3.3%) fell into this category in 2014.
- School chaplains responded to the question, "Please estimate the percentage of time you spent on the following parts of your role during the week."
- School chaplains responded to the question, "Where did you spend your school breaks this week?"
- School chaplains responded to the questions, "How many [formal and informal] pastoral conversations have you had with [students, parents/carers and staff] this week?"
- School chaplaincy 'stakeholders' refers to those asked to complete annual reviews for school chaplains. The 2551 respondents included Principals, teachers, SU QLD field staff, Local Chaplaincy Committee chairpersons, Local Chaplaincy Committee members, school student welfare staff, parents, P&C representatives and students.
- School chaplains responded to questions, "Did you run any of the following [social and emotional, grief and loss, spiritual support, role modelling/mentoring, community development, educational support programs] in the [second, third] term of this year?".
- Adapted from PJ Mrazek and RJ Haggerty, Reducing the Risks for Mental Disorders: Frontiers for Preventive Intervention Research (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1994).
- School chaplains responded to the question, "Please indicate the total number of students in each year level that you had 'formal' pastoral conversations with this week?"
- School chaplains responded to the question, "Of the students that you had 'formal' pastoral conversations with this week, how many of them would identify with the following categories?"
- School chaplains responded to the question, "What were the main issues for the students that you had 'formal' pastoral conversations with this week?"
- School chaplains responded to the question, "What was the outcome from your 'formal' conversations with students this week?"