Schools endorse Student Support Officers

An independent review has found a trial of 50 Student Support Officers (SSOs) in NSW government secondary schools to help address student wellbeing has provided significant benefits to school communities.

Minister for Education Adrian Piccoli said he was delighted with this and other positive conclusions in an independent report by the University of New South Wales (UNSW).

The NSW Liberals & Nationals committed to the trial of 50 new SSOs in secondary schools for the 2011 State election. The NSW Government provided funding of $14 million.

"The SSOs initially focussed on engaging more vulnerable students in developing relationships, resilience and countering inappropriate behaviours, such as bullying," Mr Piccoli said.

"Not only have they proved to be a success at this but their role has expanded. They are working well with other staff, with parents and forming valuable partnerships with external agencies to better support students.

"This improves the engagement of individual students and the broader school environment and I note that 80 per cent of students said the SSO had made their school a safer place."

Of 35 principals surveyed about the impact of an SSO:

  • 31 said it had reduced bullying, including cyberbullying;
  • 32 said it improved student behaviour; and
  • 27 said it had improved academic performance.

Although not all students were involved in organised activities with an SSO, almost two-thirds of students in participating schools reported having sought the help of the SSO.

Typical activities run by SSOs include stress management sessions for senior students; mental health programs; homework clubs; and anger-management programs.

"The review by UNSW's Social Policy Research Centre gives extremely encouraging insights into how effective the SSOs have been and how the Department of Education and Communities and schools can shape their role in future," Mr Piccoli said.

The report is at: http://www.dec.nsw.gov.au/about-us/news-at-det/announcements

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