Parents: Candidates must focus on student wellbeing

The ACT Council of Parents and Citizens Associations – Canberra’s peak body for public school parents – urges ACT election candidates to focus on student wellbeing.

“In a time of unprecedented stress and uncertainty, the short-comings of student wellbeing services are being exposed,” says Alison Elliott, Council Spokesperson. “More services and mental health professionals are needed, both inside schools and out.”

“Within our schools in recent years, we have seen more school psychologists employed, but unfortunately, it just isn’t enough. Wait lists are too long,” she says.

“Candidates need to commit to one full-time school psychologist, social worker, counsellor or youth worker in every public school, or a combination equivalent to a full time position.”

“Schools need these professionals to help students with a range of difficulties – anxiety, trauma, difficult home situations, and the pressures of modern life – so that they are free to learn in lesson time,” says Ms Elliott.

“Outside of schools, many mental health services for young people are also stretched and families cannot get into programs when they need them,” she says. “These programs must be grown and expanded. We’d also like to see school psychologists and youth workers available outside of school hours. If there is rapport and connection, some students need this to continue over holidays.”

“We are also calling for family liaison officers to be employed in schools where the need is great,” says Ms Elliott, “people who can foster better links between families, the community and the school, who can bring people in need into a welcoming environment where they feel supported and can be linked to further services.”

“When schools closed earlier this year, many families felt isolated. This shows how central the school is as a place to seek support and connection. But it’s not really part of a teacher’s job – we want them to focus on learning. So we need trained professionals in schools to focus on wellbeing and connection.”

“2020 has been particularly difficult and the effects will be long lasting. Our children need and deserve more support,” she says.

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