SCHOOL CHAPLAINCY AT ST AMBROSE
Mr Jeff Bottle is the “School Chaplain” at St Ambrose. This role is not to be confused with the role of the Parish Priest at St Ambrose – Fr Paul McDonald.
Jeff’s position is a Federally Funded program and his role as the school chaplain is to provide social, emotional and spiritual support to students.
At our school Jeff has made new members of the community feel welcome by facilitating communication between home and school. He acts as a contact for families, in particular those new to our school, to ascertain the needs of parents and their children and she spends time explaining school procedures, issues and expectations to them. Regular morning teas, gardening sessions, liaising with community groups (Dune Care, Nursing Homes, Community Health) and ‘special’ days are organised by Jeff. This encourages parents to network and also creates a connectedness with the wider community. They feel supported and comfortable in the school environment.
Jeff provides opportunities for emotional and social support for students by coordinating various programs within the school that encourage student interaction, connectedness and belonging. These include environmental groups, student support groups, opportunities to participate in extra curricula / club activities.
Spiritually, Jeff provides support and guidance in the spiritual formation of students. This may take the form of carrying out Charity work, prayer opportunities and reflection groups. Jeff also provides support for those families who are marginalised and /or need support through family difficulties.
THE ROLE OF SCHOOL CHAPLAINS
Chaplaincy is a unique service that is proving to be of great value to students, staff, parents, and their schools. It is proving effective in offering care, building the social skills of students, and encouraging responsible behaviour. It is of great long-term value to the wellbeing of Australian communities.
The role of school chaplain is to provide social, emotional and spiritual support to students.
Chaplaincy is non-coercive, but it recognises the importance of spirituality for young people. Promoting positive spirituality for children and young people is important for their overall development. Spirituality is not meant to be something strange or foreign to us, but something vital that pulls together he various facets of our lives in meaningful ways. Spirituality is about a way of seeing the world and, even more importantly, being in the world. Positive spirituality has been shown to contribute to positive health and wellbeing, recovery from illness, and long life.
School chaplains engage around questions of beliefs, values and ethics; help students explore spiritual identity; provide a spiritual / religious perspective on relevant issues; liaise with local spiritual and religious groups; and support students and the school community in times of grief and loss when some of the big questions of life arise for them. Chaplains ensure that spirituality is not forgotten as an essential part of people’s overall wellbeing.
WHAT DO SCHOOL CHAPLAINS DO?
• School chaplains are active in promoting student wellbeing, particularly through the provision of pastoral care.
• School chaplains encourage reflection about the spiritual dimensions of life.
• School chaplains have an educative role in the areas of beliefs, values, morals, ethics and religion.
• School chaplains work as part of the school support team to facilitate connection into the school network and wider community of students who are suffering from bereavement, family breakdown or other crisis and loss situations.
• The services provided by a chaplain should be appropriate to the school and student context in which he or she will operate. Within this context, chaplains will be expected to respect the range of religious views and affiliations, and cultural traditions in the school and the community, and be approachable by students of all faiths. It is not the purpose of chaplaincy services to bring about or encourage commitment to any set of beliefs.
It is important to note that school chaplains cannot provide services for which they are not qualified, for example, counselling services or psychological assessment, or medical assessment.
The key tasks of a chaplain may include facilitating access to the helping agencies in the community, both religious-based and secular, with the approval of the School Principal.
The activities undertaken by school chaplains may include, but are not limited to:
• Providing guidance to students on issues concerning human relationships;
• Assisting school counsellors and staff in the provision of student welfare services;
• Providing support in cases of bereavement, family breakdown or other crisis and loss situations; and
• Being readily available to provide continuity and on-going support for individual students and staff where this is necessary.
• Supporting students who wish to explore their spirituality;
• Providing guidance on religious, values and ethical matters; and
• Facilitating access to the helping agencies in the community, both church-based and secular, with the approval of the School Principal.
BACKGROUND TO THE NATIONAL SCHOOL CHAPLAINCY & STUDENT WELFARE PROGRAM
Announced by the Howard Federal Government in October 2006, the National School Chaplaincy Program (NSCP) provided up to $165 million over three years to all Australian school communities to assist in the provision of chaplaincy services. Individual school communities were eligible to apply for up to $20,000 per annum to establish school chaplaincy services or expand existing chaplaincy services.
The Rudd Government in 2009 extended the program to the end of 2011 with a $42.8m injection. In 2010, the Gillard Government announced an extension to the program to the end of 2014, and in September 2011 the National School Chaplaincy & Student Welfare Program (NSCSWP) was announced.
The NSCSWP will help support up to 1,000 new chaplains or secular welfare workers across Australia. The new program will also establish a minimum standard of training for all chaplains and welfare workers, a revised complaints-handling process and new benchmarks for all chaplaincy and welfare worker providers.
For more information on the National School Chaplaincy & Student Welfare Program, contact the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations on 1300 363 079 or visit http://www.deewr.gov.au/Schooling/NationalSchoolChaplaincyProgram/Pages/NSCStudentWelfareOverview.aspx