SOS for school chaplaincy funding

Lisa O’Malley from Save Our Schools (SOS) said chaplains were a vital service for students, teachers and parents and removing them left a hole hard to fill.

She said Federal Government funding for the National School Chaplaincy Program was given to the States ‘to do as they saw fit’, resulting in 100 public and private placements being allocated.

Ms O’Malley also questioned the criteria for funding and how it was decided which schools would have chaplaincy services.

Education Minister Peter Collier told Parliament on February 25 that 357 WA public schools had been funded under the Federal program, which ended last year.

He said in 2015, 319 public schools received chaplain funding, with 247 of them funded by the federal program, 71 by the State Government, and one school by both. It was the first time 96 of these schools had received chaplain funding.

There are 123 WA public schools where chaplains were funded in 2014, but not in 2015.

Local schools on the list include Applecross primary and high schools, Leeming Senior High School and Ardross, Attadale, Bicton, Booragoon, Brentwood, Kardinya, Mount Pleasant, Oberthur and Palmyra primary schools.

Mr Collier said the State had provided an extra $1.45 million through the Education Department to fill the federal funding shortfall. Funding criteria was based on a school’s Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage (ICSEA), location, student numbers, percentage of regular attendees, transiency data and current pastoral care support strategies or personnel.

Schools without an ICSEA score were considered separately.

Fremantle MLA Simone McGurk said most schools described the chaplain position as an asset and an important part of supporting students.

‘The original federal system gave schools the choice to employ a youth worker, counsellor or chaplain. Now, all of this important support for school communities has been stripped,’ she said.

Palmyra Primary School, which had funding for a chaplain two days a week last year, failed in its bid for funding this year.

Youth Care has made funding available for the school to receive half a day a week of chaplaincy, which Ms O’Malley says isn’t enough.

‘A band-aid solution is all it can be. Palmyra had two major family tragedies over the summer holidays and chaplaincy services are vital in dealing with these situations,’ Ms O’Malley said.