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School operations

Chaplaincy

Policy

This policy explains how Victorian government schools can implement chaplaincy services not funded through the National School Chaplaincy Program.

Summary

  • This policy does not relate to chaplains that are engaged through the National School Chaplaincy Program.
  • Schools can fund a chaplain through the school’s Student Resource Package, fundraising or a community partnership (voluntary or paid).
  • Schools can employ a chaplain directly or by entering into a General Service Agreement with a chaplaincy provider.
  • Schools must obtain written parental consent before a student receives support from a chaplain.

Details

Chaplaincy services

Schools can engage chaplains to support the educational, social and emotional wellbeing of students. Chaplains work closely with wellbeing and allied health staff in schools to support students and their educational outcomes, staff, families and the wider school community.

Engagement

Schools can engage chaplains by:

  • employing a chaplain directly, usually as an education support staff member, or 
  • entering into a general service agreement with a chaplaincy provider who will employ a chaplain to provide chaplaincy services in the school. Refer to the General Service Agreement

Schools can fund chaplains through:

  • the school’s Student Resource Package (SRP)
  • fundraising
  • a community partnership (voluntary or paid)

Qualifications

The minimum qualification requirements for chaplains are:

  • a Certificate IV in Youth Work, or
  • a Certificate IV in Pastoral Care, or
  • a Certificate IV in Chaplaincy and Pastoral Care, or
  • an equivalent qualification that must include competencies in mental health and responding to client needs (incorporating making appropriate referrals)

Consent

Schools must obtain written Chaplaincy Parent Consent from parents or carers or the student (if adult or mature minor) before the student receives support from the chaplain. Schools can obtain consent from parents/carers and students at the beginning of each school year, or as needed.

The Frequently Asked Questions on Parental Consent and the Departments' policy on Decision Making Responsibilities for Students provide more information. Translated parent consent forms can be found on the Department's National School Chaplaincy Program webpage. When seeking consent, schools must advise parents/carers and students:

  • that chaplaincy services are optional
  • the nature of the chaplaincy service
  • the role of the chaplain
  • the type of information to be collected and reasons for its collection
  • conditions of disclosure of information
  • their right to access information

For more information, see the section below on Chaplaincy Information, Records and Reporting Policy.

Roles and responsibilities

Chaplains will:

  • work as a member of the school’s wellbeing team in delivering student wellbeing services
  • contribute to improving student engagement and connectedness
  • contribute to providing a safe, inclusive and supportive learning environment
  • provide pastoral care and guidance to students
  • operate within the school community and with external providers

Roles and responsibilities of chaplains could include:

  • providing support in areas such as student attendance, engagement and mental health
  • providing students with support and/or appropriate referrals in difficult situations such as during times of grief, or when students are facing personal or emotional challenges
  • providing pastoral care and guidance to students, referring students to appropriate services to meet their needs, including community-based services
  • supporting students and staff to create an environment which promotes the physical, emotional, social and intellectual development and wellbeing of all students
  • supporting students and staff to create an environment of cooperation and mutual respect, and promoting an understanding of diversity within the range of cultures and relevant traditions within the school community

Chaplains must not:

  • take advantage of their privileged position to proselytise, evangelise or advocate for a particular religious view or belief
  • put themselves, or allow themselves to be placed, in a compromising situation, recognising that there are circumstances where confidentiality may be sought by the student
  • conduct themselves in a manner which impacts the delivery of their services, even in a private capacity
  • perform professional or other services for which they are not qualified
  • conduct religious services or ceremonies or lead students or staff in religious observances unless agreed to by the principal
  • deliver Special Religious Instruction. Refer to the Department's policy on Special Religious Instruction for further information

The school or chaplaincy provider can use the Position Description template to engage chaplains in schools.

Code of conduct

Chaplaincy providers and chaplains must comply with all state and Commonwealth legislation, and with all relevant government school policies, including those concerning child protection, mandatory reporting, privacy, anti-discrimination, human rights, and creation and retention of student records.

Chaplains must observe a high standard of professional conduct at all times. When carrying out their responsibilities, chaplains must:

  • recognise, respect and affirm the authority of the school principal (or delegate) and/or school governing body and work in consultation with them
  • contribute to a supportive, safe, inclusive and caring learning environment within the school
  • respect, accept and be sensitive to other people’s views, values and beliefs, including the cultural and religious perspectives of parents/carers
  • ensure all students are supported with respect for their religious beliefs, or lack of religious beliefs
  • actively discourage any form of harassment or discrimination
  • refer students to a service or organisation which is best placed to support the student’s particular needs in accordance with the beliefs and values of the student or their family
  • provide accurate and impartial information about the support and services available in the broader community
  • be approachable to all students, staff and members of the school community
  • respect students, families and staff for their beliefs and not seek to impose their own beliefs or persuade students towards a particular set of beliefs
  • avoid unnecessary physical contact with a student, recognising, however, that there may be some circumstances where physical contact may be appropriate, such as where the student is injured or distraught
  • keep appropriate records to document the support provided to students/school
  • provide access to these records to the school, as appropriate, to ensure the school can meet its duty of care obligations to students

Schools can use the Code of Conduct template for chaplains in Victorian government schools.

Child protection — reporting obligations

Chaplains are in frequent contact with students and are well placed to observe when a child or young person appears to be at risk of abuse.

The chaplain must comply with mandatory reporting obligations under the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 (Vic) as they are classified as ‘mandatory reporters’, under the school counsellor definition. For more information, refer to the Department's policy on Protecting Children — Reporting and other Legal Obligations.

All chaplains must:

  • notify the school principal if they have concerns about the wellbeing or safety of a child
  • notify Department of Health and Human Services — Child Protection if they form a belief on reasonable grounds that a child or young person has suffered or is likely to suffer significant harm as a result of physical or sexual abuse, and the child’s parents are unlikely to protect the child
  • comply with the Chaplaincy Information, Records and Reporting Policy

Chaplaincy Information, Records and Reporting Policy

The Chaplaincy Information, Records and Reporting Policy includes guidance on consent for chaplaincy services, referral, how information is collected, recorded, shared and stored, transfer of information between schools, management of complaints, reporting obligations, and training.

Forms are available in the Resources tab for chaplains to use to manage the referral/intake process as well as for recording case notes.

Complaints

Schools must follow the standard complaints management process established by the Department, refer to Parent Complaints

If a complaint is made about chaplaincy, the principal will manage the complaint and involve the provider. Principals must ensure that the chaplain and the chaplaincy provider (where appropriate), are aware of the Department’s policy on complaints management, as well as the Chaplaincy Information, Records and Reporting Policy which contain additional requirements for management of complaints relating to chaplaincy.

Complaints involving alleged serious misconduct, unsatisfactory performance or sexual harassment must be referred to the Employee Conduct Branch for advice regarding an appropriate course of action.

Records of all complaints must be held at the school.

Relevant legislation

Department policy on implementing chaplaincy services in schools

Reviewed 11 February 2021

Policy last updated

15 June 2020

Scope

  • Schools

Contact

Wellbeing Workforces and Child Safety Unit

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