Girl sharing her heart with a chaplain

By Paul O'Rourke

An independent survey has shown overwhelming support for chaplaincy, saying the program is “most effective in dealing with issues regarding sense of purpose and self-esteem, building peer relationships and social inclusion”.

The 2017 National School Chaplaincy Evaluation report showed principals, students and parents said they wanted chaplaincy expanded to include more days each week.

Kantar Public Research, who oversaw the research for the Federal Government Department of Education and Training, surveyed 2147 principals, teachers, students and parents, and conducted focus groups with 23 parents.

The report said: "The National Schools Chaplaincy Program is considered to be important to the school community. 88% of principals, 76% of chaplains, 77% of parents and 60% of students considered the NSCP to be important to the school.

"In conclusion, the evaluation indicates the National Schools Chaplaincy Program is considered to effectively support the wellbeing of students and the broader school community. The programme is regarded as important for the school and is well supported by the school community (i.e. by principals, chaplains, parents and by students). There is strong support for the programme to be continued."

The report showed some parents and students did not want any spiritual input from chaplains, and that chaplaincy should be better promoted in schools.

Local schools endorse chaplaincy and mentoring

Chaplaincy and one-on-one mentoring also has overwhelming support among Devonport school leaders:

Reece High School principal, Grant Armistead said: “I have weekly conversations with parents, teachers and students saying how much they value having a chaplain at our school.

“In fact, I would say that one-to-one adult mentoring has had the most significant positive influence on individual student wellbeing. Having a significant adult within the school that cares for them has a profound effect on their confidence and self-worth.

“Some of our most at-risk students’ attendance is significantly higher on days when they work with their mentor.”

Devonport Primary School principal Nichole Todd says chaplains and mentors play a unique and complementary role in developing a strong culture of care.

“This is the first school where I’ve had mentors working with students,” she said.

“They are a fabulous addition to helping children feel valued, cared for and respected.”

Mentors, ranging from retirees to university students, are carefully matched with students, spending an hour to 90 minutes a week together.

“The mentors become another positive adult influence in the child’s life, and form a strong bond over time,” Nichole said.

Devonport Chaplaincy and Loaves and Fishes has a special relationship with SPACE school.

Program Leader at SPACE (Staged, Predictable, Adaptable, Connected and Enabled), Wade Symmons said: “The chaplaincy group has been with us from day one of the school, working with teachers and support workers to set up classrooms and workshops for the kids.

“Three of our students did work experience at the Loaves and Fishes kitchen which led to school-based traineeships. A fourth is doing work experience at the Devonport warehouse which we hope will also lead to a traineeship.

“Loaves and Fishes also delivers food daily which the kids use in our kitchen to cook meals to take home."