People at your school

At every school, there are people you can talk to should you ever have a problem. Find out who some of them are.

Who can I talk to at my school?

Find out about all the people you can talk to at your school should you ever have a problem.

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At every school there are people you can talk to should you ever have a problem. It doesn’t matter how big or small that problem might feel to you. They’re there to help.

How about we go meet some of them?

Your teacher is always willing to listen and help. If they feel they are not the best person to help, they will know someone who can.

Your year adviser can also support you. They can help if you are having problems with friends and managing your school work. They can also connect you with other people who can help.

If your school has a wellbeing head teacher, or a WHIN Coordinator, you can also speak with them. They will work with you to decide who you want to talk to about whatever is going on. They’re there to support you.

There may also be a student support officer in your school who runs wellbeing programs with groups of students to help everyone feel and stay connected. They’re there to listen to you and figure out the best way to help you. If you need specialist help, they can organise that for you, too.

Public school students right across New South Wales, from Kindergarten to Year 12, can speak to a school counsellor or school psychologist. These staff have qualifications in psychology and work specifically with young people to provide extra advice and support. You can talk to them about all sorts of problems, and they can help you to understand, and manage, your thoughts and feelings. Some students talk to them when they are feeling sad, or anxious, but others just want some good advice on learning how to cope with things.

So, as you can see, there are lots of different people at your school that you can talk to. Because when it comes to looking after your mental health and wellbeing, you don’t have to do it on your own.

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Teaching staff

Your classroom teacher is always willing to listen and help you with a problem or help you find someone who can.

There are other teaching staff with wellbeing responsibilities at school including:

  • Head Teacher Wellbeing
    This is a teacher with responsibility for heading up your school's wellbeing team. There is a Head Teacher Wellbeing in most high schools or a staff member who oversees your school's wellbeing team. In primary schools, this will usually be an Assistant Principal.
  • Year Advisers
    There is a Year Adviser dedicated to each year of students at every high school. Your Year Adviser is there to help if you are having difficulty with friends or schoolwork, and they can help connect you to other support if needed.

School counsellor or school psychologist

Every NSW public school student has access to a school counsellor or school psychologist. These staff have qualifications in psychology and work specifically with young people to provide extra advice and support.

The school counsellor or school psychologist can:

  • support students who are worrying about school work, friends, getting in trouble at school or feeling down
  • help parents and carers to understand and manage their child's learning and mental health needs
  • connect you with external agencies to help provide wrap-around support for students.

School counsellors and school psychologists are:

  • empathetic listeners
  • student-focused - and make students feel comfortable and at ease
  • excellent communicators
  • able to build relationships based on trust
  • committed to the highest professional standards.

School counselling is confidential.

Find out more about the school counselling service.

Justin is the school counsellor at Strathfield North Public School

Justin Whyte, School Counsellor

I feel very fortunate to be working in schools as a school counsellor, but with a teaching background.

Pina Fanggidae, Principal, Strathfield North Public School

Our school counsellor Justin is very much a ‘hands on’ school counsellor. He’s always ion classrooms.

The advantages of Justin being a school teacher before and having that expertise and knowledge is he knows how the classroom operates, he knows the curriculum, he understands how students’ learning progresses through stages, and he knows what interventions will work in terms or marrying the learning and the academic with the social-emotional behaviour and other challenges that students might have.

Justin Whyte

I came to school counselling through a teaching pathway. So, I was a primary teacher for about ten years, just over ten years. I’d always had an interested in the welfare, wellbeing side of teaching, and I really enjoyed watching and supporting the emotional growth of children in my class.

Pina Fanggidae

Justin works really closely with our students, our staff and our parents. It’s benefitting the learning needs and behaviour needs, and the different needs of our students.

Justin Whyte

The role of a school counsellor is very varied. There’s lots of different things we do as part of this role. Assessment and counselling are our two main areas, assessment and intervention I should say really, but our intervention can be supporting our teachers and parents and families, and whole school initiatives as well.

Early intervention and prevention is really key in addressing the mental health of our population.

Pina Fanggidae

When I first started two years ago, Justin and I had a conversation together where we set the scene that this would be a partnership. So, he does really feel part of our school and our communities. Not an add-on, he’s not an extra service that we go looking for. He’s a member of our staff.

Justin Whyte

School counsellors are definitely part of many teams within a school and I think that’s one of the things I love most about this role is the ability to work with people. Often principals and deputy principals ask us for support and guidance in managing very difficult situations.

We don’t always solve everyone’s problems straightaway, we don’t have a magic wand, but when we can see people growing and learning through our in put it’s fantastic and it keeps you coming to work every day.

I’ve been asked a few times would I go back to teaching. And I don’t know if I would now. I’ve been in the school counselling role for a while and I really enjoy the variety that comes with it, and how the role is really valued by a lot of the executive and teachers and families.

I still hugely respect all the teachers I have worked with and continue to work with, but I think I’ve made the right choice with the role I’m in now.

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Student support officer

Student support officers (SSOs) are qualified youth workers or social workers in high schools who work closely with the school counselling service and the wellbeing team to ensure students get the help they need to deal with anxiety, stress, or any difficult issue they may be facing at school.

Your SSO is there both to support individual students who may be having a tough time, and to help your school provide wellbeing initiatives and programs such as anti-bullying, positive relationships and digital citizenship.

SSOs can help help connect students and families with other community-based support agencies and play a big role in supporting new Year 7 students when they start high school.

Find out more about student support officers.

Erin is one of our most experienced Student Support Officers. Watch her story to find out more about how SSOs work in schools.

Erin Diggelman

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.

Wellbeing nurse

Some schools have access to service of a wellbeing nurse. A wellbeing nurse is a registered nurse who works across a number of schools to help connect students and families with health and community services. Your wellbing nurse works closely with your school's learning and support team. He or she is there to help support students and families in addressing health needs, coordinate appropriate assessments and assist with referrals to any needed medical or social services.

There are around 100 wellbeing nurses being introduced into NSW public schools in 2021 under a partnership with NSW Health. Find out more about the Wellbeing and Health In-reach Nurse Coordinator program.

School chaplain

Some schools have a part time school chaplain. School chaplains are there to support the emotional wellbeing of students and the broader school community through the provision of pastoral care services. They are another person you can always talk to.

Tara Reading, chaplain at Cooma North Public School, explains how the chaplain role works in a school

Tara Reading

I'm Tara and I'm the school chaplain here at Cooma North.

My role is pretty much about connecting with people and building relationships so I'm just that extra person here that yeah, children can come to and can trust. And if they're happy they can come to me and tell me their problems. Or if they're lonely, we can have a chat.

I'm here at permanent part time and so I do three days a fortnight here at the school.

I am not a counsellor. I don't counsel the kids, I refer kids on.

It's not a Christian role, it's a holistic wellbeing support role. I come to school, I go to the classrooms, I ask the teachers if there's anywhere I can help. You know, some kids might be struggling in the classroom, just need that break and that outing. So I'll go play basketball with them or go kick a football, go do some art.

I'm also here for not just the children, but also the staff and parents as well. So it encompasses all those areas.

When you know that a child's been in a really difficult space and you're being there just building relationship with them, and then you just see them grow and flourish and come to this place where they're just excelling and they're happy and they want to come and share those experiences and what's going on, I just find that really rewarding.

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