Schools to share kids counsellor

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Wakatipu educators are backing the novel idea of a stand-alone social worker to help youngsters in all local schools deal with problems.

The Wakatipu Abuse Prevention Network and other agencies are spearheading the initiative, which could see the specialist social worker also act as a counsellor for school­children.

The network has ap­proached local schools to gauge interest – and to see how badly the role needs to be filled.

It’s hoped the position will be locally funded with help from community trusts and businesses – with the social worker’s time being split among Queenstown Prim­­­ary, Wakatipu High, St Joseph’s Primary and Arrowtown School.

The schools-wide initiative is believed to be a first for a decile 10 area – and the fact it’s all community driven is believed to be unique.

Queenstown Primary principal John Western is all for the idea “Hopefully as a community we can find the money to support it because we all benefit from strong families.”

Schools deal with children with a variety of issues, including relationships with family members, friendships, trust, anger and grief.

Teachers often refer kids to counselling at an external agency but funding shortfalls and counsellor availability can hinder this.

“We really find it beneficial to have a counsellor that’s specifically trained for children – that’s absolutely critical,” Western says.

“But we don’t have the resources to employ some­­­one full time and that’s the same with other primary schools.”

Other local school principals agree.

St Joseph’s principal Phil O’Connell-Cooper: “There are many needs when you’ve got children in a school and one of the needs that’s very hard to meet in Queenstown is a social worker, counsellor-type service.”

Arrowtown principal Robin Harris says there’s not such a great need for one at his school but he remains supportive “if it’s going to make a difference to all schools”.

WAPN manager Tina Mongston says it’s still early days in striving to establish the position. She’ll meet other com­munity agencies early next year to discuss the next step.