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National School Chaplaincy Program

The National School Chaplaincy Program (NSCP) aims to support schools in promoting the wellbeing of students by establishing or maintaining pastoral care workers (PCW) in South Australian schools. The pastoral care workers may provide spiritual or emotional support. While PCWs may be religiously affiliated, they are prohibited from proselytising.

It is voluntary for schools and students to participate in this program.

The nature of the service is decided by schools, following consultation with school communities. Schools will regularly inform parents and students about the availability and voluntary nature of the program.

The NSCP is not intended to diminish or replace existing careers advice, counselling or wellbeing services. It is designed to form part of the wellbeing services that already exist within school communities.


The Commonwealth Department of Education and Training provides funding to the states and territories via a project agreement for the NSCP. Funding of $7.27 million per year is provided.

Funding applications

The 2017-18 NSCP funding round is now closed. Applications were open to all DECD schools, even if they had not previously participated in the program. Applications closed on Friday 16 September 2016. Successful and unsuccessful schools have been notified of the outcome.

The NSCP application guide (PDF 1934KB) was developed to assist schools in completing their applications. This document also details the assessment criteria used for the 2017-2018 funding round.

The Department for Education and Child Development (DECD) was not able to fund all schools that applied for 2017-2018 funding. This is because:

  • more schools applied for funding than the amount of funding available
  • the quality and need of the applications received was high
  • funding was prioritised for schools that indicated higher levels of disadvantage/need
  • the assessment model used includes the best measures of disadvantage/need and data available to the department to undertake this assessment
  • the model provided a ranked school list which permits the department to allocate funding to the next school/s in the list if any funded schools decline their funding offer or withdraw from the program
  • as a direct result of feedback from service providers and schools in 2015-2016, a minimum funding level was applied to ensure that the service is financially viable for service providers and schools.

The 2017 NSCP schools list (PDF, 14.2 MB) provides the list of government schools receiving funding for 2017-2018. 342 of 367 schools successfully applied for 2017-2018 NSCP funding.

2016 financial acquittal

 NSCP funded schools are required to provide a financial acquittal report to the department  which comprises the annual report for the calendar year.

The NSCP 2016 annual financial acquittal must be completed online (in liaison with your 2016 NSCP service provider) and submitted by schools that received NSCP funding in 2016. 

The link to the online form was emailed directly to school principals on 11 November 2016.  The acquittal must be submitted no later than COB Wednesday 30 November 2016. If your school does not submit the completed form in full by this date, we will not be able to pay your 2017 funding.

Service providers

Religion and service providers

DECD schools do not directly employ pastoral care workers. Pastoral care workers are employed by a relevant service provider. Service providers do not have to be religious organisations. PCWs employed by non-religious service providers must have a letter of assurance from a religious organisation that they meet the requirements of the PCW criteria.

Engaging a service provider

Schools can approach any organisation to deliver NSCP services if they comply with the NSCP guidelines and other supporting documentation. Schools and service providers will be notified directly via e-mail of the arrangements for 2017 onwards.

More information on who can be a service provider and how to engage a service provider can be found in the following document:

Note that the NSCP Guidelines have undergone a major edit as part of a consultation process and are now available above. NSCP funded schools and service providers have been notified directly via e-mail. Please ensure that you familiarise yourself with the final document as there are a number of significant updates including clarification of roles and responsibilities for principals, service providers and pastoral care workers.

Changing service provider or withdrawing from the NSCP

Your school may change service providers at any time during the school year, but a change late in the year may be difficult to recruit for.

In some circumstances such as change of school community support, the school may need to withdraw from participating in the program. Any unused NSCP funds must be paid back to the department. In these circumstances, the school must negotiate with the service provider to ensure that:

  • a final financial acquittal report outlining expenditure and service details up to the date of the school exiting the program is obtained from the service provider
  • the service provider transfers unused surplus funds back to DECD.

Current service providers

DECD does not endorse any particular organisation for delivery of NSCP services.

The following organisations are currently delivering NSCP services to South Australian government schools:


Pastoral care worker qualifications

The service provider and the funded school make the assessment of a pastoral care worker’s qualifications. Minimum qualifications for pastoral care workers must

  • be a Certificate IV (Pastoral Care or Youth Work or equivalent)
  • be considered (on face value) to be directly relevant to the NSCP objectives of supporting the emotional wellbeing of students by providing pastoral care services, and strategies that support the emotional wellbeing of the broader school community
  • contain subjects/units/content relevant to the ‘mental health’ and ‘making appropriate referrals’ competencies.

If the service provider and school are satisfied that the pastoral care worker has qualifications that are equivalent or higher than the above they must document this in writing. The department may request evidence of any decision supporting a claim for equivalency.

Workers without minimum qualifications

The department recognises that it may be difficult to recruit appropriately qualified workers in regional, remote and disadvantaged communities. On a ‘by exception’ basis, service providers can apply for approval to engage a pastoral care worker who is studying towards the minimum qualifications.

As the employer of pastoral care workers for the purposes of the NSCP, the service provider must provide evidence through Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) processes and/or school principal or community leader advice about the worker’s relevant skills, abilities and experience. The outcome will be decided by the cross sector panel (consisting of government, Catholic and independent school representatives) who will inform the service provider the decision and any conditions.

Service providers wanting to employ someone working towards minimum qualifications should email DECD.NSCP [at] sa.gov.au for the ‘application for minimum qualification transition arrangements’ form.

National program evaluation

The Commonwealth Department of Education and Training (the Department) is conducting an independent evaluation of the National School Chaplaincy Programme (NSCP) to understand how NSCP services support the emotional wellbeing of students and the broader school community through the provision of pastoral care services.

The Department has engaged an independent research company called TNS to conduct the research on the Commonwealth’s behalf with principals, pastoral care workers, parents and students invited to voluntarily participate.

All schools taking part in the NSCP in 2016 have been invited to participate in the evaluation from 7 November to 28 November 2016. TNS is using online surveys and focus groups to engage with principals, pastoral care workers, parents and students involved in the NSCP, thus ensuring all participants are represented in this important research.

NSCP newsletter

The NSCP quarterly newsletters provide information about the program including key facts, program updates, relevant due dates and news stories.

Previous editions


National School Chaplaincy Program

Phone: 8226 1029
Email: DECD.NSCP [at] sa.gov.au