Extra support for Southland pupils

LAUREN HAYES
Last updated 05:00 02/02/2013

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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 been included in the Social Workers in Schools (SWIS) programme, after the Ministry of Social Development announced it would expand SWIS to include all low-decile schools, not just the 285 originally selected for the programme.

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

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

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

It was likely Aurora College would share a part-time social worker with other SWIS participants Te Wharekura o Arowhenua and Ascot Community School, 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 who 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 in SWIS, and principal Susan Dennison said the school was excited about the programme as it would benefit the whole school community to have someone 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 $11.1m a year, will be rolled out in stages, with schools in Northland, South Auckland and Hawke's Bay covered in the first stage. Nationwide, 131,000 pupils in 673 schools will have access to a social worker at school by term three.

AT A GLANCE

Southland schools covered under SWIS:

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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