The Place of School Social Workers within Education Public Policy: The Portuguese Case


  • Sandra Maria Gouveia ANTUNES Centre for Studies in Education and Innovation, Polytechnic Institute of Viseu, Portugal


Social workers promote justice and social change, work to optimize access and promote citizens' rights, among which is the access of all students to education. In Portugal, social workers presence in schools fluctuated throughout times, as a consequence of the variable appreciation the profession deserved in the successive public policies regulating the educational sector. Thus, two purposes guide this paper review: (i) to unfold the main legislative initiatives in the field of public education to reflect upon social workers participation in Portuguese schools, over time; (ii) emphasize the multidimensionality of the work accomplished by social workers in schools, conceptualized the open systems permeable to the diversity and complexity of the problems (failure, abandonment, indiscipline, violence, bullying, discrimination, …, consumption) that encompass students' social origins and their needs. Resting on exploratory-descriptive research, this paper is based on the selective literature review from school social work's and educational policies scientific fields, subsequently subjected to content and argumentative analysis procedures. Main results emphasize the central role fulfilled by social workers in Portuguese schools, stressing out the ways by which political theoretical-methodological, ethical and technical-operational dimensions permeating social work practices, are mobilized to build critical professional projects capable of responding the challenges school social workers face nowadays.

KEYWORDS: social work, social intervention, school, educational policy, Portugal