Effectiveness of Chaplaincy

Research Study

Chaplaincy Research Study

In 2009, a national study of the effectiveness of chaplaincy in government schools was undertaken for the National School Chaplaincy Association by Dr Philip Hughes of Edith Cowan University and Prof Margaret Sims of the University of New England. The study was of the Christian chaplains in approximately 1626 schools for whom the members of the National School Chaplaincy Association were responsible, representing 85 per cent of government schools with chaplains. National surveys of principals and chaplains were undertaken, along with case studies of chaplaincy in 21 schools, selected to represent a wide range of urban and rural, primary and secondary schools across Australia.

Overall, it was found that chaplains had undertaken the activities expected of them in terms of contributing to the provision of pastoral care very effectively. They had provided guidance on human relationships and provided support for students and staff in cases of bereavement, family breakdown and other crisis and loss situations. Their contribution was widely appreciated. Chaplains had also provided support for students in exploring their spirituality and had provided guidance on religious, values and ethical matters, although the extent to which this had occurred varied somewhat depending on the extent to which some support and guidance was requested.

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.

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What the community is saying about School Chaplains

“The chaplain has made all new members of the community feel welcome. She has been a wonderful asset in facilitating communication between home and school. She makes home visits 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, cooking demonstrations, an open house time and ‘special’ days are organised by the chaplain to encourage parents to network. They feel supported and comfortable in the school environment.”

School Principal, NSW

“Research shows spirituality is a major protective factor in the lives of young people and I think the role school chaplains play is incredibly important.”

Psychologist & parenting expert Dr Michael Carr-Gregg

“The chaplain was there whenever I became discouraged or needed support. In 2008, my dad had a heart-attack and died at 42 years of age. This devastated my family and left us struggling emotionally over his death. Only 23 days later my mum died after a long struggle with cancer. This tragedy could have destroy my family. But, because of the unconditional support of teachers, relatives and the presence of our school chaplain I was able to face each day. When I was mad, sad or bad it was okay to take time out to talk to the chaplain, cry with the chaplain or to just sit and compose myself – to learn that I could rise above the grief and do what my parents had wanted for me – to get an education and be happy.”

Erin, Grade 6 Student

“I have always been a strong supporter of the role of chaplains in our schools — because they make a difference. They provide an additional adult role model in the school. They help connect the school community, including parents and teachers as well as children themselves. They can arrange expert help with specific challenges, such as dealing with family breakdown, bullying, self-esteem, drugs, grief and behavioural management problems.”

The Hon Kevin Rudd, former Prime Minister of Australia & current Foreign Affairs Minister

“Parents are requesting the Chaplain for home visits, parenting support, to networks of other service providers and advocating for families with disabilities in all areas of community life.

Welfare issues at school are better managed through stronger connections with families.  School home issues are effectively followed up and often issues which cause added hardship are resolved.  Ultimately this improves connectedness and student/school relationship.”

Special School Principal, Victoria

“The school chaplains who are out there working for you and your community are doing a much tougher job than I ever had to do. We need school chaplains. They are the ‘frontline’ people who are making the difference in our young generation.”

Laurie Lawrence, one of Australia’s most successful Olympic swimming coaches

“Daniel has been able to support the spiritual needs of the school through the relationships he forms and the programs that he operates. He focuses on bringing out the strengths in the individuals that he works within the context of home and family support, crisis support, hospital visitation and hospitality in the community. He liaises with external organisations such as Fusion, and is able to offer referrals to other counselling services.

His consistent approach to working with the whole person earns the trust of families and gives them confidence in approaching him regarding matters of spirituality. Students recognise that Daniel is someone who will listen without judgment and they often request time with him when they are feeling unsettled.”

Primary School Assistant Principal, Tasmania