A GUIDE TO SCHOOL SOCIAL WORK (2007 EDITION)

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1 A GUIDE TO SCHOOL SOCIAL WORK (2007 EDITION)

2 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS A Guide to School Social Work (2007 Edition) is a joint partnership between the Students Care Service (SCS) and the National Council of Social Service (NCSS). Staff from both organisations has contributed immensely to the successful completion of this project: Mrs Peace Koh-Wong Yuh Ju, Centre Director, SCS Mrs Chang-Goh Song Eng, Principal Social Worker, SCS Ms Jacqueline Au Yong, Research Associate, SCS Ms Stella Koh, Senior Executive, Children, Youth and Family Services, NCSS Ms Robyn Tan, Senior Executive, Children, Youth and Family Services, NCSS SCS and NCSS would like to acknowledge the invaluable inputs for Chapter 8 from: Mdm Yap Cheng, Head of Department, Pupil Welfare & Guidance, Ahmad Ibrahim Secondary School; Mrs Angeline Veerandran, Full-Time School Counsellor, Ahmad Ibrahim Secondary School; Mrs Jamaliah Salim, Trainee Full-Time School Counsellor; Mrs Tan-Wu Mei Ling, School Social Worker In addition, SCS and NCSS are grateful to the School Social Work Chapter, Singapore Association of Social Workers for their invaluable support and contributions to this revision.

3 TABLE OF CONTENTS Chapter 1 Introduction 1 Chapter 2 Goals and Objectives 4 Chapter 3 Ethics and Principles 6 Chapter 4 Theoretical Concepts 7 Chapter 5 Delivery Approach and Strategies 11 Chapter 6 Programmes and Fee Charging 12 Chapter 7 Students with Special Needs 13 Chapter 8 VWO and School Collaboration for Effective Partnership 15 Chapter 9 Roles and Responsibilities 20 Chapter 10 Core Competencies for School Social Work Practice in Singapore 24 Chapter 11 NCSS Standards Framework 28 Chapter 12 Resource List 32 Annex A Code of Professional Ethics of the Singapore Association of Social Workers 36 Annex B Sample Contract 41 Annex C Suggested Activities for Various Strategies 43 Annex D Description of Programmes 46 Annex E Proposed Range of Professional Fees 48

4 Chapter 1 Introduction School social work in Singapore had its infancy in 1965 when Mrs Nalini Schooling undertook a school social work research project with Singapore Children s Society. This was the pioneer project in school social work practice encompassing needs assessment, casework, action research and group work intervention. School social work in Singapore was officially established in the 1970s with Students Care Service (SCS) providing counselling, training and consultancy services directly to schools, students and their families. In 1987, the Ministry of Education (MOE) introduced formal counselling in schools through its Pastoral Care and Career Guidance Branch. And in 1995, the Inter- Ministry Committee on Dysfunctional Families, Juvenile Delinquency and Drug Abuse recommended that schools should appoint counsellors to help these (highrisk) students They can refer difficult cases to Family Service Centres or other social work agencies for counselling or other follow-up programmes. Schools should be given the funds to pay for such referrals 1. In the following year, funds were available through MOE for schools to either engage the professional services of Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs) or to employ full-time school counsellors. This led to a significant increase in demand for schoolbased services. By 1999, about 60% of secondary schools in Singapore were offering some form of guidance to their students through social service professionals. 1 See report from 1995 The Inter-Ministry Committee on Dysfunctional Families, Juvenile Delinquency and Drug Abuse. 1

5 There were over 30 VWOs, 6 freelance practitioners and 4 full-time school counsellors who were working specifically in this area 2. To elevate the professionalism of school social work, a five-member School Social Work Chapter pro tem committee 3 was initiated by SCS in 2003, through the Singapore Association of Social Workers (SASW). The Chapter aims to build up a professional identity for school social work through its specialised knowledge and skills, as well as to ensure and develop the quality and standards of the profession. It also serves as a platform for school social workers to advocate policy development. In recent years, the importance of providing a holistic education for students and enhancing student welfare is illustrated through MOE s introduction of the Part-time School Counsellor Scheme in 2001 and the Full-time School Counsellor Scheme in MOE aims to appoint a full-time school counsellor (FTSC) in all secondary schools by 2006 and in all primary schools and junior colleges by In 2004, the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) launched the School social work To Empower Pupils to Utilise their Potential (STEP- UP) initiative to support VWOs in their delivery of school social work. STEP-UP aims to build and strengthen the social and emotional resilience of students, in particular, at-risk students 5 to enable them to cope better with challenges, and to maximise their schooling experience. 2 Lim, P.A. (2000). An Exploratory Study of School Social Work and Counselling Practices in Singapore Secondary Schools - Implications for Schools and Practitioners. Journal of Youth Studies, Vol. 3, No See 2004 AGM Report on the objective of setting up the School Social Work Chapter Pro Term Committee. 4 FY2005 Committee of Supply Debate, reply by Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Minister for Education on School Sector. Available at: 5 See the Inter-Ministry Committee on Youth Crime (IMYC) report for definition of at-risk students : those who have been subjected to a combination of interrelated biological, psychological, and social factors that result in a greater likelihood for the development of delinquency, substance abuse, or other related anti-social and self-destructive behaviours. 2

6 The administration of STEP-UP was originally under the purview of MCYS. Since January 2007, the administration of STEP-UP has been transferred to the National Council of Social Service (NCSS). Undoubtedly, the Full-time School Counsellor Scheme and the STEP-UP programme have provided great impetus to the growth of the school social work sector in Singapore. As of 31 July 2007, a total of 49 VWOs have come on board as STEP-UP service providers, delivering school social work to 150 schools including primary schools, secondary schools, junior colleges, centralised institutes and Institute of Technical Education (ITEs). These new initiatives have contributed considerably to a changing school social work scene in the recent years. This has led to NCSS partnering SCS in embarking on a research study The State of School Social Work in Singapore 6 which was completed in The first edition of A Guide to School Social Work was first developed in It has been eight years since the launch of the first edition. Hence, NCSS collaborated with SCS on a project to revise the Guide. This second edition is designed to serve as a fundamental guide for school social work practice in Singapore. 6 This study is a partnership between Students Care Service and the National Council of Social Service to obtain an overview of the school social work sector in the following areas - profile of school social work practitioners, types of school-based services, students issues of concerns, key stakeholders perceptions of roles of school social workers and school counsellors, and recommendations for future developments in school social work. 3

7 Chapter 2 Goals and Objectives School social work seeks to co-ordinate and to influence the efforts of the school, the family and the community to help students, who face difficulties in their developmental process and/or in adjusting to their school life 7. School social work is usually provided in the school premises so that services are easily accessible to school-going children and youth, and their families. It allows the workers to closely monitor the progress of the students, to build a positive relationship with school personnel, and to support schools in the management and development of students as they navigate through the challenges of adolescence and school life 8. Goals School social work provides social, emotional, academic and familial support, enabling students to obtain maximum benefits from their schooling experience. Objectives The objectives of school social work target at different levels: (a) Preventive: to minimise predictable problems by Assisting schools to identify existing and potential behavioural problems amongst students, and develop appropriate services; and Empowering students to resist negative influences and harmful involvement. 7 See Barker, R. L. (1999). Social Work Dictionary (2 nd ed.) 8 Adapted from the 1999 Guideline on School Social Work Service by the Social Welfare Department of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. 4

8 (b) Developmental: to prepare students to manage life transitions by Enabling students to effectively manage stress during their school life; Enabling students to obtain optimal benefits from the learning opportunities available in schools; Equipping students with life-skills, e.g. interpersonal communication, problem solving and emotional management; Inculcating healthy and positive personal and social values; Increasing students ability to handle challenges in life; and Promoting leadership development, community involvement and social cohesion. (c) Remedial: to enable students to cope with identified or existing issues or problems by Assisting them to manage their problem more effectively; and Enabling them to function adequately as individuals within the school, the family systems and in the community. 5

9 Chapter 3 Ethics and Principles Ethical Guidelines The SASW upholds the professional standards and code of ethics for the social work profession. School social workers abide by these values and ethics, which guide them in their practice (see Annex A). They are committed to help schools achieve their goals for students welfare. Principles & Beliefs School social work is guided by the following principles and beliefs that it should Be instituted as an integral part of the school system for student welfare; Place the welfare of students as the paramount consideration when delivering the service; Base practice on the ecological perspective that emphasises the understanding of people, their environment and the nature of their transactions, i.e. the relationships between the individual or group and their environment; Be professionally managed with high accountability by keeping the school personnel informed of the progress, development and outcome of the service rendered without compromising confidentiality; and Involve the community, whenever necessary in the intervention and/or developmental process to help students and their families. 6

10 Chapter 4 Theoretical Concepts The school is seen as a complex and adaptive organisation that is constantly generating patterns of action and interaction with its subsystems. The interaction often becomes an impetus for change and growth. The two key theoretical orientations are Systems Theory and Ecological Perspective. Systems Theory A system may be defined as a complex of elements in mutual interaction and interdependence, directed at a mutually defined goal. An understanding of the interdependence and interaction of these elements provides the school social worker with a person-in-environment framework within which to view life in process and in relationship to the environment. In practice, the term system emphasises that the overall operational process is the focus of analysis. Hence, this implies that the school functions as a whole by virtue of its interdependent parts; and students, teachers, other school personnel, parents all whose interests converge within the school are bound together by the school s social institutional roles 9. Working systemically helps the school social worker to identify and consider all systems (e.g. the school, family and community) that contribute to the student s situation or difficulty. There are thus multiple entry points to problem-resolution. The worker will choose the most appropriate entry point to begin the process of change. More importantly, this multiple system perspective allows accurate assessment and intervention to be conducted in the context where the problem belongs. 9 Allen-Meares, P. (Ed.) (2004). Social Work Services in Schools (4th ed.) Boston: Pearson. 7

11 Based on this orientation, the presenting problem is not seen as belonging to an individual but rather, as a repetitive sequence of interaction within or amongst the system/s that maintains and is maintained by the problem. In other words, one s behaviour contributes to the patterns (may or may not be problematic) which subsequently organises one s behaviours in return. Ecological Perspective The ecological perspective, postulates that people and their environment have to be understood in the context of their relationship with each other. This relationship is characterised by continuous reciprocal exchanges in which people and environments are constantly influencing each other. An ecological perspective provides the framework for understanding the nature of the transactions between the person and different institutions and/or systems. It helps the social worker to identify and consider all systems contributing to the students situation or difficulty. Furthermore, it recognises that resolution may be more effective when intervention takes place within more than one system. The focus of intervention is on the social process of interaction and the transactions between the student and the environment 10. The environment is defined as the aggregate of external conditions and influences that determine a child s life and development 11. The environments that affect a child are the family, school, peer, community and the mass media. Theoretical Underpinnings in Practice Translating these theories into practice the school social worker gives due consideration to, and seeks to influence or change the following systems, subsystem and/or systems-interfaces: 10 Ibid. 11 Ibid. 8

12 Macro-system refers to the culture in which individuals live tracks and responds to trends, for example, social stratification that marginalised certain student groups as in the digital divide and its effects on students and families; Exo-system refers to settings in which the person does not actively participate but in which significant decisions are made affecting the individuals who do interact directly with the person, for example, persuading employers to promote pro-family work environment so that parents could spend more time with their children; Meso-system involves the relationship between micro-systems or connections between contexts, i.e. school-community, school-family or school-moe. Examples of specific changes may include changing the perceptions and attitudes of school personnel on students and vice-versa, and creating different experiences at the interface of systems/interaction patterns that yield positive effect on relationship and learning; and Micro-system is the setting in which the individual lives. o Student system: considers individual s concern/esteem/resilience; o Family system: considers issues such as inter-generational family system, intra-familial patterns of behaviours; o School system: makes recommendations like modifying school conditions and policies that may hinder successful school experience for students, or finding a good fit between the characteristics of particular student population and the school-community s conditions and practices; and o Peer system: works on issues that arise between students and their peers, for example, peer pressure and gang association. 9

13 Primary Prevention Practices Primary Prevention Practices are actions taken to keep conditions, known to result in problematic stress and maladaptation, from occurring by encouraging adaptive functioning and positive development 12. To reach these goals, primary prevention engages the positive forces in individuals, families, and groups, and works to change environment properties that have an adverse effect on growth and adaptive functioning Germain, C. B. (2002). An Ecological Perspective on Social Work in the Schools, In Constable, Mcdonald & Flynn (ed.), School Social Work- Practice, Policy and Research Perspectives. USA: Lyceum Books. 13 Ibid. 10

14 Chapter 5 Delivery Approach and Strategies Delivery Approach Schools can engage the services of social workers from VWOs for school social work programmes and/or services. The two parties can work in tandem to intervene and to help students realise their greatest potential academically, socially and emotionally. Schools may approach any VWO, known to be providing school social work, to discuss and make implementation plans for the school calendar year. In the engagement of VWOs to provide school social work service, a contract to define the terms of agreement, scope and duration must be signed between the school and the VWO. A draft contract at Annex B serves as a guide. Delivery Strategies VWOs may also initiate their services to schools. They can employ strategies to promote, increase awareness and deliver social work in schools. The strategies are Promotion, Presence, Permeation and Post-mortem. For a list of suggested activities, please refer to Annex C. 11

15 Chapter 6 Programmes and Fee Charging For the holistic development of students, school social workers could design a mix of preventive, developmental and/or remedial programmes. A description of the list of programmes is provided in Annex D. To encourage co-ownership and sustainability, VWOs should charge schools for the purchase of their services and programmes. VWOs and schools can refer to Annex E for the proposed range of professional fees for individual programmes. 12

16 Chapter 7 Students with Special Needs Students with special needs require enhanced opportunities to grow and develop to their fullest potential. Proper intervention and assistance can minimise the effects of their disabilities and enhance the quality of their schooling experience. Statistics from MOE indicate that there are about 4,000 children with mild to moderate disabilities in mainstream schools. In recent years, MOE has taken a series of proactive measures to build up education for students with special needs. Since 2005, MOE has deployed 81 Special Needs Officers (SNOs) to 70 primary and secondary schools. This number is expected to grow close to 240 by SNOs complement the support that classroom teachers presently provide to students with special needs by rendering more specialised in-school support. The school social worker can complement the work of SNOs and classroom teachers by assisting students with special needs in mainstream schools to Integrate better into the school system; Maintain regular attendance, good conduct and satisfactory progress during their school tenure; and Prevent premature school leaving. Suggested Approach for the School Social Worker Establish a relationship of trust and understanding with students with special needs; Help students overcome their personal difficulties; 14 See 4 th reply by MOS Gan for COS debate. (2007). on Special Education, Further Improving the Quality of Education for Children with Special Educational Needs. Available at: 13

17 Maintain and strengthen students contact with their families, teachers and peers; Understand students developmental milestones, social background and family circumstances so as to make realistic goals and plans for their adjustments to the school; Work with school personnel and the general student population to promote understanding and acceptance of students with special needs; Engage community resources and disability-related VWOs for cases requiring specialised expertise; and Review students progress regularly so as to monitor their needs and identified concerns. 14

18 Chapter 8 VWO and School Collaboration for Effective Partnership To ensure an effective approach to helping students and schools, school social work should be provided by a team of professionals from the social work field. The team should comprise of trained social workers (at least a degree in social work, or its equivalent), a programme coordinator and an experienced supervisor. In addition, MOE s guidelines for staff providing school-based counselling stipulates that the counsellor should have the following prerequisites 15 : Completed 1 year of structured post-course professional supervision; Be receiving ongoing professional support for continual development and monitoring of practice standards; and Possess at least a diploma in counselling involving 300 hours of training inclusive of 150 hours of supervised practicum or equivalent qualification. Possible Strategies for School Social Work Delivery The school social worker works in the primary setting of the school. Supporting the school in maximising students educational opportunities should thus govern his/her work. The following pointers are highlighted to guide the school social worker in partnership with the school. (a) Appreciate the school culture Be mindful that the school is an open system with its own culture that is shaped by, amongst other things, its history, vision, mission, and core values; Learn about the school culture through its environment; school s ethos and structure; events and programmes and put together a perceptive strategy with relevant school personnel, to engage the school population; 15 See Briefing Notes for STEP-UP 2008 by MCYS (2007). Available at: 15

19 Form an accurate assessment of the school and decide on an appropriate point of entry. (b) Respect protocols Know the organisational structure while making initial contacts with the school. Keep key school personnel like the principal and the Head of Department (Pupil Welfare) informed of decisions, as well as developments of the programme; and Be familiar with the chain of command in communications, decision-making, resource procurement and programme development. (c) Be accountable Maintain proactive communication with the school and relevant documentations to ensure accountability, for both case and programme management; Provide informal and formal reporting of cases and programmes through discussion, feedback, mid-year and annual reports; and Be accountable to the school without compromising client confidentiality. (d) Be visible and accessible Generate awareness of roles and responsibilities of the school social worker, as well as school social work programmes/services to the relevant school personnel, especially during the beginning of VWO and school partnership; and Increase visibility of school social worker among key school personnel and students through events, talks and informal interaction like outreach in the school canteen. 16

20 (e) Be an effective team member Maintain clear and open communication and build a respectful and trusting relationship with key school personnel; Conduct dialogue sessions to define roles and responsibilities in both specific and generic programme and case management; and Encourage the school to recognise the value of different helping professionals, as an individual and as a team, to support students in maximising their educational opportunities while maintaining role clarity and task flexibility. Possible Strategies for School to Facilitate School Social Work Delivery It is equally important that the school understands and believes in the value of the school social worker as a collaborative partner to meet the needs of the students and to fulfil the school s mission. The school should secure the necessary resources for the programmes and services, and work collaboratively with the VWO and other community organisations. The following pointers suggest what the school can do to facilitate school social work delivery. (a) Identify a suitable VWO which Shares beliefs that complement the school s philosophy and values; Articulates and translates theories and approaches to actual practices in school social work; Demonstrates established competency in school social work; Is committed to work with students and their interacting systems such as their families, teachers and peers; and Is able to work with school personnel to meet the needs of students. 17

21 (b) Engage in Collaborative Planning Present the needs of students and the school to the VWO or work with the school social worker to assess and identify the needs; Appoint at least one school personnel as liaison person for the school social worker to work directly with. The liaison person could be the Head of Department (Pupil Welfare) or FTSC; Support the school social worker to work with families and communities; and Introduce work processes critical to the delivery and recognition of school social work such as systematic programme reviews and proper communications between school and VWO. (c) Facilitate the acceptance of school social worker within the school population Orientate the school social worker to the organisational structure and environment of the school; Introduce the school social worker to key management and operations personnel (including supporting administrative staff); Provide platforms for information sharing on roles and responsibilities of school social workers, as well as programmes and/or services to relevant school personnel; and Involve the school social worker in school activities and events to build rapport and work with students and teachers. (d) Support the implementation of school social work Identify and prepare resources required for the implementation of school social work programmes and/or services; Participate in the implementation process whenever possible and understand the programmes and services provided; 18

22 Integrate school social work with existing programmes in the school to develop an integrated and holistic approach for developing students potential; and Provide relevant feedback for fine-tuning of programme and/or services where necessary. (e) Facilitate professional development of school social worker and the VWO Nurture a collaborative partnership with the school social worker and the VWO; Provide feedback on areas of strengths and improvements; and Co-develop a social service model with the VWO to meet the varied needs of students. 19

23 Chapter 9 Roles and Responsibilities School Social Worker The school social worker helps students develop their internal capacities and social and emotional competencies to realise and maximise their potential. The worker s role is multi-faceted and frequently involves interfacing between the student, his or her family, the school and the community. A school social worker may take on the following roles and functions: (a) Caseworker and/or Counsellor- To work with students on the identified problems and with those experiencing the effects, including their parents, teachers, peers and the community. The worker will identify the issues and intervene in view of their relationship with one another. The caseworker and/or counsellor also helps students better understand themselves, their feelings and to resolve their behavioural and emotional problems in connection with their developmental process and adjustment to school life. The worker may run support programmes to better equip students in meeting challenges in life, such as family transitions and school adjustments. (b) Advocate- To act as a platform and a bridge amongst the students, their families, teachers and/or school. This involves promoting greater understanding among the various parties and finding platforms to help surface issues of concerns or to improve services and effect change of structure. (c) Mediator- To strengthen the linkages between the students, their families, the school and the community for promotion of better understanding and harmonious relationship amongst them and to mediate between the parties when misunderstanding or conflict arises. 20

24 (d) Programme Deliverer- To plan, implement and evaluate the school social work programmes according to the needs and environment of the school. The worker will ensure that the programmes are holistic and that evaluation is carried out appropriately. (f) Networker- To locate and mobilise community resources, such as skills, facilities, manpower and services, for the benefit of the students, their families and the school. The worker will initiate and facilitate collaboration among schools and communities in achieving the goals and objectives of school social work. (e) Trainer- To develop and provide training and educational packages for teachers, students and their families so as to equip: Teachers with basic relationship building, assessment and intervention skills. This is necessary to help students function optimally in the school; Students with life-skills that increase their social and emotional competencies. In addition, career-related attitude and skills can be taught so that students can relate more meaningfully with their current school experiences and opportunities; and Parents with skills and knowledge to build positive parent-child relationship that supports their children in their school life. (f) Consultant- To provide consultation service to: The school management on policies and issues relating to student welfare; Teachers on referred cases or general management of students; Parents on parent-child relationship; and Students on personal, social, familial problems and challenges. 21

25 (g) Researcher: To conduct research and surveys like needs assessment, surveys on prevailing phenomena and evaluation of programmes. The worker will also review the service with the school personnel regularly and collect data related to their work for the development and improvement of services as well as for advocacy and change. The school social worker s responsibilities include: Serving clients with appropriate application of professional skills; Maintaining integrity and professionalism by upholding values and ethics like clients confidentiality; Being respectful and sensitive to clients cultural background; Empowering clients (students, parents and school personnel) to be responsible for problem resolution and/or to find a good fit with one another to achieve identified goals; Delivering services with an understanding of the general educational goals and objectives, and the school systems; Maintaining accurate data and sharing information to ensure accountability to clients; and Developing own professional competency. Counselling Personnel in the School The Full-time School counsellor (FTSC) is fully emplaced in the school system and works closely with the school management in the planning and implementation of school-wide counselling programmes. The FTSC provides counselling for students and case consultations to school personnel and parents, and delivers training to teachers in the areas of social and emotional development of students See for the job description of FTSC and for FTSC scheme 22

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