Grant Armistead

By Paul O'Rourke

Reece High School principal, Grant Armistead (pictured), is arguably the biggest fan and strongest advocate of school chaplaincy and one-on-one student mentoring.

“I have weekly conversations with parents, teachers and students saying how much they value having a chaplain at our school,” he said.

“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.”

Grant says the power of mentoring is the longevity of the relationship – the level of trust and respect built over time.

He said some students had the same mentor for several years, meeting for 90 minutes each week.

While chaplains serve the entire school community including parents and teachers, adult mentoring matches adults with high school students in need of extra support.

Relationship of trust

The Reece High School model is built on positive relationships while participating in a learning activity where the student achieves success.

Grant, who is a former Reece High School student, and who has been teaching for 22 years, has seen the value of chaplains and mentors at three different schools.

“Due to Brian Webber’s warmth and connection to people visiting Devonport High School, they often thought he was the principal, rather than the school chaplain.

“He was the face of the school, often greeting people when they arrived, showing them our school or taking them to wherever they had to go.”

Chaplains triage student wellbeing

He said chaplains added a unique and extra dimension to student welfare.

“Chaplains are like the school’s triage service, assessing needs and referring students to appropriate services such as the school nurse, social worker or psychologist if necessary.

School’s good cop

“They are not there as counsellors. They are expert listeners, encouragers and our “good cops” of the school.

“They are another positive resource for our school community.”

Grant said teachers and parents also contacted the chaplains, knowing they were great listeners, independent, and non-judgemental.