I could not have said it any better

Which is why you all need to go and read this article at the SMH now :

It’s not just a bunch of atheists and self-interested psychologists who are worried about the school chaplaincy program. The head of the Anglican Education Commission in Sydney, Bryan Cowling, has also cast doubt on the role of school chaplains in government schools, in part because they don’t “need to have any particular credentials”.

Exactly. Don’t be fooled by the term “chaplain” here, these are laypersons with no training in psychology or pedagogy, who often are pushing a religious agenda, and have no idea how to deal with the mental health and social crisis issues they inevitably come across.

No one asked principals or teachers what they needed to deal with increasing problems of depression, anxiety, disruptive behaviour, bullying and self-harm among students. No one evaluated what worked and didn’t work in schools, or where the gaps were in providing for student welfare. Principals got steamrolled. It was a chaplain or nothing.

Based on a handful of chaplains working in schools on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, a treasurer of a chaplaincy service wrote an enthusiastic letter to Greg Hunt,

his Federal Liberal MP, who urged him to contact John Howard. Six months later in 2007, the multimillion-dollar national program was born.

Such was the harebrained genesis of a program that has the potential to put vulnerable children – and out-of-depth chaplains – at risk.

Yes, yes, and yes ! I think we are finally getting somewhere with this. If you want to support vulnerable school children, get trained counsellors in. But let’s get rid of untrained religious proselytisers, who might be well-meaning, or might not be, and might promote homophobia or racism, but they do not have the training or the qualifications to give the kids any meaningful advice or support. This program is doing childen a disservice. And everyone knows it. So let’s spend the extra 220 million on trained counsellors and psychologists, as we should have done from the beginning:

The Gillard government, courting the Australian Christian Lobby, has expanded the program and provided another $222 million. The $430 million and more that will be spent on chaplains by 2014 could have bought a lot of professional school counsellors. In NSW there is about one school counsellor for more than 1000 children, a ratio that is half what is probably needed.


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