Popularity of UNE social work placement doubles

Published 05 April 2016
SWiS at Coonamble High School

Coonamble High School

A University of New England program placing social work students into local schools for practical experience is so popular schools have been put on a waiting list pending the availability of students.

The number of schools wanting to participate in the program called Social Workers in Schools (SWiS) has doubled this year to thirteen.

SWiS Program coordinator, Associate Professor Myfanwy Maple from the School of Health, said there are huge benefits for the students and schools.

“Schools benefit by gaining a member to their wellbeing teams and, in some instances, this additional help means more programs can be provided to students. We hope that social workers become a permanent fixture in schools, particularly in rural areas, where support for children and young people can be limited,” A/Prof Maple said.

The program was introduced last year and aims to improve the educational outcomes for both the school and UNE students.

“There is a real shortage of qualified school councillors in New South Wales, partly because of a lack of funding and because there is a greater need from students for the services within the school system,” said A/Prof Maple.

She says school students in regional communities sometimes have more complex personal lives.

“There can be undiagnosed learning difficulties or mental health and physical impairment that can heighten the instance of at-risk students performing poorly at school or even disengaging.”

A/Prof Maple believes having student social workers in schools will provide wide-reaching support beyond the school gate, including more family engagement and community partnerships.

The School of Health hopes through state government funding that the program can be sustained in the long-term.

Participation in the program is dependent on the availability of eligible social work students, the readiness of the school as well as the availability of external field education supervisors.

Contact: A/Prof Myfanwy Maple on m.maple@une.edu.au