Social Workers in Schools scheme expands

LAUREN HAYES
Last updated 11:31 01/02/2013
Pupils at Ascot Community College, Invercargill
JOHN HAWKINS/Fairfax NZ

Ascot Community School pupils, from left, Lewis Thomson, 11, Velda Lisala, 11, Alice Cade, 10, Brad Jenner, 12, and Nathan Scott, 11, having fun at school. Ascot is one of six Invercargill schools included in the Social Workers in Schools programme.

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Hundreds of Southland pupils will have access to a social worker at school this year as a government initiative is expanded across the country.

Ten Southland schools have now been included in the Social Workers in Schools programme after the Ministry of Social Development announced it would expand to include all low-decile schools, not just the 285 originally selected.

Aurora College is one of six Invercargill schools included in the expansion, which will be up and running in the region by term three.

Principal Robyn Hickman said she was looking forward to finding out more about the programme at a meeting later this month with Barnados, which had been awarded the social work contract in Southland.

Mrs Hickman said all she knew so far was the funding covered the school's year 7 and 8 pupils only, at a ratio of one full-time social worker to every 400 pupils.

It was likely Aurora College would share a part-time social worker with Te Wharekura o Arowhenua and Ascot Community School, which are also participants in the programme, she said.

Ascot Community School principal Wendy Ryan said part of a teacher's role was to be a caring ear but a social worker on site would add extra support.

''While teachers do a lot of this, [for] a child that is coming to school day after day for week after week with issues, it is really good to have someone to share this with.''

She believed Ascot would have access to a social worker two days a week.

Mataura School will also be included and principal Susan Dennison said the school was excited about the programme as it would benefit the whole school community to have somebody independent on site.

''It's somebody else in the school to care for our children, but it's also a point of contact for our parents.''

The expansion, expected to cost $11.1 million a year, will be rolled out in stages, with schools in Northland, South Auckland and Hawke's Bay covered during the first stage.

Nationwide, 131,000 pupils in 673 schools will have access to a social worker at school by term three.

SOUTHLAND SCHOOLS COVERED

East Gore School

Mataura School

Ascot Community School

Aurora College

Invercargill Middle School

St Joseph's School

St Patrick's School, Invercargill

St Teresa's School, Bluff

Te Wharekura o Arowhenua

St Patrick's School, Nightcaps

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