The role of a re-engagement officer

Issue: Volume 101, Number 16

Posted: 7 December 2022
Reference #: 1HAYUV

Mariah Scott may have only just finished her social work degree, but she is no stranger to field work. The last two terms she has been working as a re-engagement officer for Tawa Kāhui Ako.

Engaging students with school can require a holistic approach.

Engaging students with school can require a holistic approach.

The Tawa Kāhui Ako is a community of learning dedicated to the support of student success and wellbeing in north Wellington. It has one college, one intermediate and six primary schools. Mariah Scott is based at Tawa College, and it is these students she works the closest with.

The opportunity to create the position of a re-engagement officer came from Ministry of Education funding. The role is designed to help students who are not engaging with school at all. It involves meeting with them and their families to find out what’s going on in their environment, both inside the classroom and at home.

Mariah’s involvement with Challenge 2000 led her to the position. She is one of many personnel attached to the professional and dynamic youth development, community and family social work agency that operates around Wellington.

“My role with them [Challenge 2000] started as a social work student, and now that I’ve finished my degree, it’s rolled through to being a youth worker.

“Part of my role is working for the Kāhui Ako. It’s mainly about those students who are not attending at all or disengaging. Students that have bad attendances which could be for a range of reasons.”

Mariah helps students and families tap into the resources and communities that might be able to support them in their personal lives, and she then looks at ways to make their transition back through to school a bit easier.

“Some of these students haven’t been going to school for a few months or a term or half a year, and it can be really hard coming back into to the learning environment. So, I work on making that as easy and smooth as possible, making plans with their deans or their teachers about how that might look for them, and having individualised plans.”

Mariah will talk to students about what their interests are and how they align to the subjects that they are taking. She will ask which teachers they felt a connection to and whether there is the possibility to move classes or switch their timetable. She will also look at non-academic activities the school could offer, such as sports, to spark interest in being part of the school environment.

A lot of her work does involve helping to resolve personal problems such as anxiety, depression, or trouble sleeping. In these situations, she will make referrals to other services that might be able to help.

Complex mahi

Mariah recognises that re-engaging students is complex and can involve finding multiple services and solutions to help address attendance issues.

Mariah is happy to be working on helping students find success.

Mariah is happy to be working on helping students find success.

“When working with a young person, you’re not just working with the young person, you’re working with their friend groups, whatever’s going on at home, and their interests. So, it’s a lot more complex than saying ‘look, you need to attend school’.”

Even when barriers are removed, success is not always guaranteed.

“It varies on the individual and whatever is going on in their personal life and it depends on the young person’s drive to be attending. That’s why I look at their interests and their future.

“If they do have an idea of what they want to do, then I will say ‘if you want to be a builder, then you need to have your maths, English and science... this is just a minimum criterion and if you don’t like it, this is what it’s going to look like for you when you do leave school’.”

Mariah says Covid has played a part in the some of the levels of disengagement that have been occurring.

“There are students that are Year 11 now or going into Year 11 next year whose whole secondary school experience has been through Covid, and so they haven’t been familiar with the school environment enough to have settled in and don’t feel any kind of connection with school.”

Problems with transitioning between schools has motived Mariah and the Kāhui Ako to work on plans to ease the experience for students. This will involve more than just one visit to the school they will be attending and will include follow-up sessions with students in their first term and mid-year.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 1:30 pm, 7 December 2022

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