Student Support Officers
Student Support Officers (SSOs) work within the school community to enhance the learning and wellbeing outcomes of students, in partnership with the wellbeing team and the School Counselling Service. SSOs also play a pivotal role in working collaboratively with external agencies and creating referral pathways for students and families to youth and family support agencies.
About the Student Support Officer role
SSOs contribute to the implementation of the whole-of school approach to wellbeing with a focus on early intervention. They work closely with the school counselling service and other wellbeing supports to assist school-aged students to develop social and emotional skills through strengths-based program and strategies that build resilience, coping skills and positive relationships.
They also have a pivotal role in working collaboratively with external and other government agencies in their support of students and their families.
My name's Erin Diggelman and I'm a Senior Project Officer for the Student Health and Wellbeing team, previously Student Support Officer.
It's a diverse workforce. So I'm a social worker, but we have people in the role that have youth work qualifications, community services diplomas, social welfare, social work.
Something that is unique about the student support officer role is that we are based in one school five days a week. We do small group work and then we have universal programs as well. So we support the existing wellbeing programs and initiatives that are already happening in schools.
On any given day, we can see students for a number of reasons, and that could be at risk of homelessness, homelessness, financial issues, so needing support with Centrelink. That is the role of the student support officer.
We want to promote positive relationships with external agencies. We work really closely with the wellbeing team and learning support team. Wellbeing team being the Head Teacher Wellbeing, School Counsellors, and Year Adviserrs, and that can also include the WHIN.
We're a team. We don't work in silos.
You need to be approachable, have networking skills, have knowledge of your area and your community and how you can connect community with your school.
Parents need to know that the student support officer is not only there to support their child but can also support the family unit, that they can also access the service if they have something going on and they need help navigating help.
In my role at the moment as senior project officer, I get to talk to student support officers across the state and they would all say the same thing, it's the best job in the world.
Skills and experience of the student support officer workforce
A Student Support Officer is a non-teaching member of a school’s wellbeing team. They apply their skills in working with young people, small group facilitation and knowledge of community services to:
- Improve the wellbeing, resilience, and pro-social behaviours of students by working in partnership with the wellbeing team and the school counselling service to prioritise and deliver individual, small group and whole-school evidence-based programs and strategies.
- Identify and establish support networks for students with staff, the school community, and locally based government services and community agencies.
- Support transition, between schools and post-school enrolments by working with transition coordinators and external providers.
- Establish referral pathways to appropriate local services through community partnerships.
The student support officer role is a wellbeing role within a school.
We’re either youth workers or social workers, and it’s really around looking at how schools support student wellbeing from a whole school level through, you know, implementing targeted programs, universal programs, and then supporting students one on one.
I don’t know how we ever survived without a student support officer.
What Emily has been able to provide is a really strong support for the wellbeing team. She works very closely with the head teacher Wellbeing, she works very closely with our deputy principals, and with the year advisers across each year group.
I work really closely with our amazing year advisers but they have other areas of focus as well such as teaching in the classroom.
I’m someone that is always available to support students if there’s a particular wellbeing need.
So when I’m working with a young person or a student, I might be building that relationship and rapport to find out what more we could be doing to support them here at school.
We might have found out for example there’s a change in their living situation and we need to work out what support they might need as they adjust to that change. And so I’m someone that has those conversations regularly with them, checks in and sees how they’re going.
They spend so much time here and it’s a place of learning but if their emotional and mental health needs aren’t being met then it makes the learning really hard.
One of the things that I didn’t anticipate was that Emily would work so closely with our school counsellor, and that’s been a really positive relationship. The conversations around how we can best support a young person has really happened much more timely and we’ve reduced the wait time for students getting in to see our counsellors.
It’s been fantastic working with a student support officer. I see the student support officer role as a vital and integral part of the wellbeing fabric of the school.
We use a stepped care model here at Kiama High and the school counsellors really guide us on working out – is the appropriate intervention a conversation with the year adviser, or does it need a more intensive intervention such as sessions with the school counsellors or referrals to other organisations?
I work really closely with our principal, and when we’ve looked at how we implement the stepped care model, for example, I’ve worked really closely with her to make sure that that aligns with the strategic direction of the school.
This is the place where they get to flourish and so, when we’re supporting them, when we’re meeting their needs, when they’re engaged, really exciting things happen within a school.
And so I like being a part of that team that’s allowing young people to feel successful in their education, and hopefully then lead on to really exciting things for their future.
It is such a rewarding opportunity to work with young people on a daily basis in a really supportive and collegial environment. I’d really encourage any youth workers or social workers to consider a role as an SSO.
How to become a Student Support Officer
The essential qualifications for a Student Support Officer are:
- Diploma or higher qualification in social work, youth work or community services.
- Knowledge of and commitment to the department’s Aboriginal Education policies
- Current Working with Children Check (WWCC) certification
To find available Student Support Officer positions visit I Work for NSW.