The effects of pastoral care workers on student wellbeing in regional and metropolitan schools: Final report

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned reportpeer-review


This investigation of the effects of pastoral care workers on student wellbeing in regional and metropolitan schools is part of a larger suite of research. It is the twelfth output of a partnership between Uniting Country SA (UCSA) and and the research team at the Centre for Social Impact, Flinders University. That body of work exists under the umbrella title of Hearing Country Voices, and it is an ongoing commitment to evidence informed practice which aligns with UCSA’s vision of just communities where all people flourish. This project was also supported by funding from the Department for Education.

‘Evidence’, in the context of Hearing Country Voices, is allied to the principle of justice in UCSA’s vision statement: the central value in this research is equity, and equity is about balancing the scales. It is about listening to and amplifying the voice of people and communities who are experts in their own lives, but who are often done to and seldom listened to. The contribution of our research is to ensure that people whose lives are affected by service and policy decisions, and workers who walk alongside them, have their voices and expertise articulated and elevated in the field of evidence claims behind those decisions.

Children’s wellbeing is well recognised as being associated with educational attainment and long-term quality of health and life satisfaction (e.g. see AIHW 2019). Yet, Australia’s record for supporting children’s wellbeing is underwhelming. In South Australia, child protection notifications increased by 30% between 2013/14 and 2017/18. Australian families notified to child protection are commonly experiencing multiple and intersecting disadvantage such as domestic violence, housing stress or homelessness and mental illness (EIRD, 2019). School environments have long been recognised as having the potential to provide a buffer for children experiencing trauma and since the 1970s have provided a range of programs and services to this end. An emphasis on child wellbeing and child protection is now so embedded that it is common knowledge, for example, that school staff are trained to be mandatory reporters. Each state and territory manages student wellbeing differently, however there are also national bodies that are available to schools to support student wellbeing, such as headspace and the kids helpline (see Department for Education, 2019, Headspace 2021).

The National School Chaplaincy Program (NSCP) in its current form was established in 2015, with several changes since its original inception in 2007. The NSCP is federally funded and state and territory managed (Australian Government 2012). In South Australia, the National School Chaplaincy Program is administered by the SA Department for Education with a view to enhancing student wellbeing. To date, there has been very limited evaluation of the impact of the NSCP in South Australia on student wellbeing. Further, there is little known regarding how the program may have different impacts on student outcomes in regional and metropolitan schools, or how the pastoral care program may optimise student outcomes in different demographics.

This report presents findings from the study What are the effects of pastoral care workers on student wellbeing in regional and metropolitan schools? This study was conducted by researchers at the University of South Australia in partnership with the SA Department for Education and Uniting Country SA. Using mixed methods, the study explored the ways in which the National School Chaplaincy Program affects student wellbeing in South Australian regional and metropolitan government schools.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherCentre for Social Impact
Commissioning bodyUniting CountrySA
Number of pages54
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022

Bibliographical note

Hearing Country Voices Research Partnership Report no. 12


  • Pastoral care
  • Wellbeing
  • Student wellbeing
  • South Australia


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