Social Workers in Schools make a difference in and out of the classroom

Published: 17 Apr 2020
Early learning

Social Workers in Schools (SWiS) are widely seen as “awesome, nice, cool, fun, great” by children who use the service, according to a case study report conducted by the Education Review Office (ERO) for Oranga Tamariki.

This ERO case study is part of a wider research by Oranga Tamariki to assess the benefits of SWiS, a government-funded service provided in most decile 1-3 primary and intermediate schools.

There was agreement across those interviewed, that students who engaged with SWiS saw an improvement in their experience in and out of the classroom, and that this led to improved relationships with their whānau and friends, as well as teachers and other school staff.

“Having a social worker on site in a school is shown to be a significant advantage for that school,”  says ERO Chief Review Officer Nicholas Pole.

“They work with children who may have some difficulties in the classroom, or children who may have additional needs because of factors outside school and help to build strong and positive relationships with teachers and other staff. This work shows how valuable the extra help can be, and how important the connections they make are.”

“For parents, caregivers and other family members, the social worker has often worked with a child alongside their whānau to improve those relationships. We have a parent telling us they are getting their happy child back, that is invaluable work,” he said.

SWiS typically used a holistic approach which was effective because of the engagement with a child’s wider circle. By focusing on the strengths in a child’s situation and creating a non-judgemental environment, benefits were felt by all involved. SWiS workers help tamariki through multiple tools and techniques, such as talk, art therapy, special games and anger management techniques.

This report is based on visits to six schools with SWiS, who worked with children from a variety of ethnic backgrounds and who had a variety of problems at school and at home.