Chaplaincy in schools should be evaluated
Date posted: Sunday 15 May 2011
Increased government support for the school chaplaincy program has raised a series of issues according to Dr Monica Thielking, a researcher at Swinburne University's Institute for Social Research.
Amid accusations that Access Ministries, the Christian group responsible for religious education in most Victorian government schools is trying to convert children to its faith, Thielking said the National Chaplaincy in Schools Program (NSCP) should be examined.
"There are a lot of unanswered questions surrounding the program but in order to move forward, and in the best interests of students, the program should be subjected to rigorous independent evaluation as part of a national review of student support in Australian schools," she said.
"The central concern is how well are we supporting young people in schools?
"We need to look at the role of chaplaincy in the context of student support services in schools; the qualifications required to deliver support to students; the effectiveness of student support around the country and whether the best models are in place.
"The heat and controversy needs to be taken out of the NSCP issue. We need to start focusing our energy on the needs of students and take a good look at what services are currently in schools to meet those needs. What are the gaps? What's working well and what is not working well?"
Thielking said student welfare policy should be based on good evidence and a comprehensive community consultation of all the stakeholders, with the educational and welfare needs of children and young people at the core.
The expansion of the school chaplaincy program was one of the federal government's major education announcements in last Tuesday's budget. The $222 million funding increase will provide for chaplains in up to 3700 schools until 2014.
The Victorian government has also announced an extra $200,000 a year to Access Ministries to fund 196 chaplains, bringing the total state government contribution to $500,000 a year for four years.
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