Social Workers in Schools (SWiS)

Social Workers in Schools Literature Review
08 Apr 2020
Social Workers in Schools - Tamariki and whānau ex…
08 Apr 2020
Social Workers in Schools - A synthesis of recent …
08 Apr 2020
Social Workers in Schools - Report to Oranga Tamar…
30 Nov 2019


Research to better understand what benefits tamariki and their whānau receive from the SWiS service, from both kaupapa Māori and ‘other knowledge’ viewpoints.

The research explores what the SWiS practice looks like, understands what the enablers and barriers to a good SWiS practice are, and provides more context to the 2017 and 2018 SWiS impact (quantitative) evaluations.

Four reports have been produced:

  1. A report of the findings of the kaupapa Māori case study in kura kaupapa Māori and kura-a-iwi. This report was produced by Te Wāhanga, the kaupapa Māori research team of the NZ Council for Educational Research, and helps address the dearth of research in this area.
  2. A report on the English medium school case study findings, undertaken by the Education Review Office (ERO).
  3. A short literature scan on school-based social work programmes that presents how such programmes are conducted internationally compared to SWiS in Aotearoa NZ, undertaken by the Oranga Tamariki Evidence Centre.
  4. A synthesis report combining the findings of the above three reports. This report was written by Oranga Tamariki Evidence Centre researchers using a He Awa Whiria (braided rivers) methodology.


These qualitative studies were commissioned to:

  • build on the two previous quantitative studies, and
  • understand the impact of SWiS from the perspectives of tamariki and their whānau/families.

A case study approach was chosen incorporating face-to-face interviews with tamariki and their whānau/family to best capture their voices and perspectives. The case study approach was extended to interviews with social workers, the SWiS NGO provider, and kura/school leaders and other school professionals. The He Awa Whiria methodology used to synthesis the results aims to preserve the kaupapa and integrity of each knowledge stream.

Key Results

  • Many whānau and tamariki who receive SWiS services face a range of life challenges and struggles.
  • Whānau and tamariki receive responsive and holistic support from SWiS.
  • SWiS is facing some challenges especially in relation to the provision of social workers competent in te reo and tikanga Māori, lack of continuity as tamariki transition to different schools, and sometimes a lack of trust from whānau as social workers are often associated with Oranga Tamariki.
  • The SWiS practice between kura and English medium schools has some things in common, but aspects such as community connections and culturally-informed approaches are prioritised differently.
  • The NGO provider model is unique to New Zealand and not reflected in overseas school-based social work models.
  • Good relationships, cultural fit, and strong community connections are key enablers.
  • Barriers to providing an effective SWiS service include lack of resources and support, and bureaucracy which can lead to a less flexible service.
  • In spite of various challenges, SWiS achieves many of its aims and tamariki who receive SWiS were found to be more settled and happier, and therefore able to learn better.
Page last modified: 23 Jan 2024