10 schools to get officers trained in social work

10 schools to get officers trained in social work

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Media Type
Today (Online)

SINGAPORE: To better support students in difficult family circumstances, the Ministry of Education (MOE) will deploy one social work-trained officer each to selected schools to reach out to them and their families in ways that teachers and school counsellors might not be able to.

Known as student welfare officers, the ministry will introduce these officers into 10 schools - five secondary and five primary schools - by next month. The pilot will run for at least a year and be evaluated to determine the future scalability of such a scheme.

The 10 schools are Hong Kah Secondary, Shuqun Secondary, Greenview Secondary, CHIJ St Theresa Convent Secondary , North View Secondary, Gan Eng Seng Primary, MacPherson Primary, Yio Chu Kang Primary, Juying Primary and Boon Lay Garden Primary.

The officers, who are trained in social work, will work closely with parents to help students stay engaged in learning, said an MOE spokesperson — particularly those who struggle with attending school, have behavioural issues, and experience difficulties in their home and social environments.

The student welfare officers will also tap social services agencies and community resources where necessary, added the spokesperson. This might include connecting families with voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) that provide youth and family programmes. The officers could also work with social service offices located in housing estates to offer the families help in the form of financial assistance and job matching.

Youth workers have said keeping troubled youth engaged in school remains a worrying issue because of social problems such as broken families and internet addiction.

MOE statistics show that less than 1 per cent of each Primary One cohort in the last five years has failed to complete secondary school.

In 2012, a National Institute of Education study involving 3,000 youth revealed that youth gamers spent about 20 hours a week on gaming and about 10 per cent of them displayed symptoms of obsessive video gaming.

Since 2005, all schools have had at least one resident counsellor on hand to guide students in aspects of socio-emotional and mental health. Principals can also seek VWOs to help conduct home visits and provide intervention programmes.


Principals participating in the pilot said the student welfare officers will help facilitate the use of community resources to provide holistic support for students and their families.

Said Yio Chu Kang Primary School principal Teo Whye Choo: “We recognise that in certain cases, such as marital discord, the complex and difficult family circumstances of some students go beyond what the form teachers and school counsellor can typically advise or handle."

“Our student welfare officer will be our key link person to agencies such as the Social Service Offices or Family Service Centres to help these families access a wider network of community resources and services,” added Mrs Teo.

Ms Mak Yin Fun, who was deployed to the school as part of the pilot, said her roles include conducting home visits to help stabilise the home environment and conducting prevention programmes for the students.

Unlike social workers in the community, she does not deal directly with problems faced by the parents such as unemployment, but refers them to social service agencies.

“As I am a representative from the school, I find that the students’ families are more responsive and cooperative as we work together on the common goal to maximise the child’s potential,” she said.

Community social workers who work with youths, such as Mr Wilson Tan, felt a supportive family environment plays a part in keeping a child in school. But Mr Tan, who is executive director of Youth Guidance Outreach Services, felt VWOs might be better placed to connect students and families with community resources.

Mr Palvindran Jayram, an acting team leader with the Lutheran Community Care Services, on the other hand, said youth workers have only a finite amount of time with students and limited access to parents. Having student welfare officers in schools can plug those gaps, he said.

However, students may be more comfortable sharing their feelings with youth workers who are not part of the school, he added.

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Source: Today (Online), mediacorp