Chaplaincy services

From Term 1 2017, Victorian government and Catholic schools will use the new Victorian Curriculum F-10. Curriculum related information is currently being reviewed and may be subject to change.

For more information on the curriculum, see:
The Victorian Curriculum F–10 - VCAA

Chaplains support the emotional wellbeing of students by providing pastoral care services and strategies that support the emotional wellbeing of the broader school community. They work closely with wellbeing and allied health staff in schools to support students and their educational outcomes, staff, families and the wider school community.

National School Chaplaincy Programme

The National School Chaplaincy Programme (NSCP) supports the emotional wellbeing of students by providing pastoral care services and strategies that support the emotional wellbeing of the broader school community.

Participation in the Commonwealth-funded programme is voluntary, and 613 schools currently receive funding of $20,000 per year to employ a chaplain to provide a minimum of 400 hours of chaplaincy services per year.

Schools receiving funding are strongly advised to read the Frequently Asked Questions that were updated in March 2017.

To access these, see: Frequently Asked Questions (docx - 60.02kb)

For information about funding chaplains from school funds or a community partnership, see: School Policy and Advisory Guide Chaplaincy

A chaplain funded via the NSCP is defined as an individual who:

is recognised by the school community and the appropriate governing authority for the school as having the skills and experience to deliver school chaplaincy to the school community; and 

  • is recognised through formal ordination, commissioning, recognised religious qualifications or endorsement by a recognised or accepted religious institution; and 
  • meets the NSCP's minimum qualification requirements.
  • NSCP chaplains may be of any faith.

The NSCP defines pastoral care as 'the practice of looking after the personal needs of students, not just their academic needs, through the provision of general spiritual and personal advice.'

Chaplains in government schools are guided by the Department's Principles for Health and Wellbeing that underpin effective professional practice to promote and support optimal health, wellbeing and educational outcomes for students.

For more information, see: Principles for Health and Wellbeing.

Roles and responsibilities

Taking account of the definition of a chaplain, chaplains may:

  • work as a member of the school's wellbeing team in the delivery of 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.

The 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 about values and ethical matters, referring students, or sourcing appropriate services to meet their needs, which may involve access to services in the community
  • 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.

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 under the programme, 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 if working in a government school
  • deliver special religious instruction if working in a government school.

Qualifications

All NSCP chaplains must meet the NSCP's minimum qualification requirements, these being:

  • a Certificate IV in Youth Work or
  • a Certificate IV in Pastoral Care * or
  • an equivalent qualification (as determined by the State) that must include competencies in mental health and making appropriate referrals.

For more information about equivalent qualifications, see: Frequently Asked Questions  (docx - 60.02kb)

* A new course (CHC42315 – Certificate IV in Chaplaincy and Pastoral Care) has been developed to replace the current course (CHC41108 – Certificate IV in Pastoral Care). For more information, see Q.15 in Frequently Asked Questions.

Consent

Schools must obtain written consent from parents/guardians/carers or the student (if an adult or;mature minor) prior to the provision of chaplaincy services. To access the consent form and frequently asked questions document for government schools;see:

For translated Parent Consent Forms, see below:

Parents/guardians/carers and students must be advised that chaplaincy services are voluntary. They must also be informed of the nature of the chaplaincy service to be provided, the role of the chaplain, the type of information to be collected and reasons for its collection, conditions applying to disclosure of such information, and their right of access to the information. Schools can obtain consent from parents at the beginning of each school year as appropriate. 

For more information about the policy for government schools, see:

Catholic and independent schools should follow the consent procedures established by their respective sectors.

Engagement

Government schools are required to engage a chaplain through a provider that offers chaplaincy services. 

Catholic and independent schools may engage the services of a chaplain through a provider that offers chaplaincy services or through direct employment as appropriate. 

For a position description for chaplains, see: NSCP Chaplain Position Description (docx - 45.59kb)

Code of conduct

As part of their engagement, chaplains must follow these guidelines and sign a code of conduct. For more information, see: Code of Conduct (docx - 37.35kb) 

Chaplains must comply with all State and Commonwealth legislation, and with all relevant government/non-government school policies, including those concerning child protection, mandatory reporting, privacy, anti-discrimination, human rights, and creation and retention of student records. To the extent that there is any conflict between a school or departmental policy and a policy of the organisation which employs the chaplain or with which the chaplain is affiliated, the relevant government/non-government school policies prevail.

Chaplains are required to observe a high standard of professional conduct at all times. When carrying out their responsibilities, they 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/guardians/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.

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 or neglect.

The chaplain must comply with mandatory reporting obligations under the under the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 as if the chaplain were a 'mandatory reporter'. 

This means that the chaplain must make a report to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Child Protection  if they form a reasonable belief that a student is in need of protection as a result of physical injury or sexual abuse, and the student's parents/guardians/careers are unable or unwilling to protect the student from that abuse.

See: A Step-by-step guide to making a report to Child Protection or Child FIRST (pdf - 269.5kb).

All chaplains must:

  • notify the school principal if they have concerns about the wellbeing of a child
  • notify the DHHS Child Protection if they form a belief on reasonable grounds that a child or young person is in need of protection from significant harm as a result of physical injury or sexual abuse, and the child's parents are unable or unwilling to protect the child
  • note the Chaplaincy Information, Records and Reporting Policy below.

The Department provides online training on mandatory reporting that is available to chaplains in all sectors. Links to the Child Protection-Mandatory Reporting eLearning module are available under Department resources. Chaplains in government schools are required to complete this training annually.

Catholic and independent schools should follow the procedures established by their respective sectors.

Chaplains in Catholic and independent schools are strongly encouraged to complete this training annually.

Information, records and reporting policy

The Department's Chaplaincy Information, Records and Reporting Policy must be adhered to by chaplaincy providers and chaplains providing services in government schools. The policy clarifies the roles, responsibilities and obligations of chaplaincy providers and chaplains who provide chaplaincy services in goverrnment schools in regard to information, records and reporting.

This policy includes guidance in relation to:

  • Consent for Chaplaincy Services
  • Collection of information
  • Security and storage of information​​
  • Use of information
  • Access to and correction of information
  • Management of other complaints
  • Referral
  • Recording of information
  • Transfer of information between schools
  • Disclosure of information
  • Other requests for information
  • Reporting obligations
  • Purpose of collection
  • Quality of information​
  • Ownership and custody of information​
  • Retention of information
  • Management of complaints about the handling of information
  • Training​

For the policy, see: NSCP Chaplaincy Information, Records and Reporting Policy (docx - 63.35kb)

For more information, see;Records and information management Catholic and independent schools should follow the procedures established by their respective sectors.

Students (or their authorised representative) in government schools can apply for access to student records via Freedom of Information. For more information see: 

Students in Catholic and independent schools can request the same information directly from the school.

Forms are provided for use by chaplains to manage the referral and intake process as well as for recording case notes:

Complaints

Principals must ensure that the chaplain and the employing agency (where appropriate), are aware of their sector's policy on complaints management. Principals should also ensure there are procedures in place at the school to manage complaints about the chaplain or service delivery with the agency concerned. This will always involve engaging the agency when a complaint is escalated to the principal.

Complaints should be resolved at the school wherever possible. Where this is not possible, schools must follow the standard complaints management process established by the relevant school sector.

  • For information about the complaints management process for government schools, see: Parent Complaints - Government Schools
  • In government schools, complaints involving alleged serious misconduct, unsatisfactory performance or sexual harassment, should be referred to the Department's Conduct and Ethics Branch for advice regarding an appropriate course of action. For more information, see: Conduct and Ethics Branch
  • Government schools must also have regard to the Chaplaincy Information, Records and Reporting Policy (docx - 67.1kb)
  • In Catholic and independent schools, the school's complaints procedures must be followed. 
  • Metropolitan Catholic schools must refer complaints to the Catholic Education Office Melbourne, Professional Conduct, Ethics and Investigations Unit, and to the Catholic Education Offices in Sale, Ballarat and Sandhurst for complaints relating to schools in those dioceses. 

Records of all complaints must be held at the school.

Funding, Reporting and Accountability

Funding is provided directly to schools at the start of each year. Schools may purchase additional services from a chaplaincy provider at their discretion.

Schools and chaplaincy service providers participating in the NSCP are required to report to the Department to ensure chaplains and providers are operating in accordance with the service agreements and programme guidelines. Government schools must use the NSCP service agreement below to engage a chaplaincy provider:

Provider Agreements

Chaplaincy providers are required to enter into an NSCP;provider agreement with the Department to provide services;in government schools:

Any organisation that wishes to be a provider of chaplains via the NSCP in Victoria can express interest by sending an email to student.engagement@edumail.vic.gov.au

Departmental policies and guidelines