Skip to main content

Student wellbeing in schools

WA children and young people have regularly identified school as an important factor in their lives, providing a strong foundation for their wellbeing.

There is growing recognition of the role of schools in supporting the wellbeing of students.

The Commissioner consulted with the Department of Education, Catholic Education WA and the Association of Independent Schools of WA, as well as approximately 180 schools on the issues, approaches and resources to support student wellbeing. The Commissioner has identified opportunities to strengthen responses to promote positive student wellbeing and ensure that WA students receive the support they need.

The Commissioner's findings are detailed in the reports below. 

Discussion paper - Supporting student wellbeing in WA schools

pdf 548Kb Download pdf

School survey findings on student wellbeing

pdf 344Kb Download pdf

The following report was prepared for the Commissioner on the extent and distribution of financial resources available to address student health and wellbeing needs.

How the education sectors resource and react to student health and wellbeing issues in Western Australia

pdf 927Kb Download pdf

These case studies on selected WA schools detail the approaches they take on student wellbeing: 

St Anthony's School Wanneroo

The following information has been provided to the Commissioner by the school.

  • Catholic primary school
  • 2020 enrolment of almost 490 students from age of three.
  • Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage 1049, on the 69th percentile in terms of the educational advantage of students attending.
  • One per cent of students identify as Aboriginal, and 19 per cent have a language background other than English.

Student wellbeing approach

The school has used Australian Early Development Census data and other local area data measures to shape strategic approaches to addressing student developmental vulnerability and student outcomes.

What has worked well in supporting student wellbeing?

Leadership, strategy and planning

The school’s leadership structure has allocated dedicated time, resourcing and staff committees to progressing priority areas and initiatives for the school, sharing decision making across the staff group. A health and environment committee has trialled a number of new initiatives for the school, including a reverse lunch (focused on play first followed by eating) to prioritise exercise and give students space to eat and settle before coming to class. The school developed the ‘St Anthony’s Way’, which articulates the attributes and values expected of students, parents, staff and the community.

Early intervention is a school priority, with an early intervention and community engagement officer role established to build relationships with other agencies; and a Little Learners program for pre-school aged children focused on building trust and relationships with families.

Support for students

A school nurse is available each day to support students with complex health needs, provide support and advice to staff, and well as coordinate first aid and health programs for the school. The nurse actively engages with families, often working with the social worker and classroom teacher to coordinate an individualised response where there are wellbeing concerns for a particular student. School staff feel this has been a more effective way of engage families than other avenues they have tried.

A social worker is based at the school two days per week, providing case management for students with more complex needs. This role works closely with parents and families, and coordinates additional support or referrals with external agencies. The social worker coordinates ‘St Anthony’s Care’, providing practical support (including food hampers, transport etc.) for families who are experiencing challenges or hardship.

School psychologists are accessed through Catholic Education WA, Edith Cowan University Health Campus and the school also supports referrals to private practitioners where required.

Student transition is managed comprehensively, both internally between year groups through detailed handovers with teachers, as well as in transition to high school through handover with new teachers and transition visits to the new school. Priority is placed on supporting new students and families to become familiar with the school, knowing expectations and helping students feel ready for learning.
Social and emotional learning for students.

The school social worker leads the delivery of social and emotional learning (SEL) at class and school-wide levels, as well as with individual students. Initiatives include:

  • Seasons for Growth program for students dealing with family loss or change
  • Zones of Regulation to support the development of self-regulation skills
  • Keeping Safe protective behaviours curriculum
  • Courageous Hearts mindfulness and self-awareness program
  • Student goal development
  • Resilience building activities.

A targeted social skills program is also offered with older children in this program working with Education Assistants to help lead activities with the younger students, including board games, and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) activities.

Student participation

A school climate survey is undertaken every two years with students from pre-primary to Year 6, asking students to rate the school on rule clarity, reporting and seeking feedback, support for learning, expectations for success, teacher support, peer and school connectedness. Results from the 2019 survey were largely positive, with average responses across age groups indicating that these measures were happening most of the time.

Student participation is encouraged through leadership positions in Year 6 and having Year 6 students participate in a Ministry or service area, with a focus on either health or the environment, such as participating in the St Vincent De Paul Mini Vinnies program or undertaking fundraising.

Year 6 students developed a Student Code of Conduct and students, parents and staff were engaged to develop the ‘St Anthony’s Way’ document.

Student and family participation is supported through a wide range of other activities on the school site, including having outside school hours care on site, as well as a range of extracurricular activities, including music, sport and mental health activities that require parents attendance, providing an opportunity for parents to interact with their children and the school.

Safety for students

Staff are trained in the delivery of the Keeping Safe program and protective behaviours curriculum, and in being trauma informed. Physical safety is considered in the way that the school manages its facilities, and provides a physically secure school premises, and a sensory room for students.

Cultural safety and visibility is promoted through a culture wall that represents the nationalities of the community members, and representing the school values of embracing diversity and difference.

Partnerships

Parents can provide feedback through the school climate survey, at enrolment, through Parents and Friends’ Meetings and through a newsletter.

School staff have built relationships with external local service providers to benefit students at the school, as well as with local members of parliament and the local council.

A partnership with Edith Cowan University has enabled speech and occupational therapy students to conduct their practicum placements at the school, supporting individual students and identifying any required support.

The school is developing strategic relationships with the City of Wanneroo Early Years’ Team to achieve common goals in early intervention. Collaborative networks have also been formed with other Catholic schools across the region to identify shared strategic direction and identify opportunities to build staff capacity across different schools.

The school intends to build a community centre space on site to provide services to students and their families, such as parent programs, health services, playgroups and outreach programs for other organisations.

Learning and development for educators

All staff are involved in trialling, determining and reviewing school programs, and supported to understand program purposes and potential benefits to students. Staff teams develop best practice programs and pedagogy so that decisions can be made closest to the learner. Other development opportunities include a strength based staff appraisal program, and instructional walks.

Capacity building for education assistants is a focus for the school, with an education assistant part of the school’s leadership team. 

Tracking impact

The school developed ‘data walls’ to track data and determine individual student progress - using academic data of reading, writing and numeracy, as well as attendance, to determine any students who may need additional support.   

The social worker also works closely with families to address attendance and school engagement, seeing improvements in student attendance rates as a result.

What else is required to improve student wellbeing?

The school has identified the need for more timely community support for families in crisis, recognising that the current options are limited or difficult to access. The school has also acknowledged the need to work with families and the general community to improve accessibility for vulnerable families.

Moorditj Noongar Community College

The following information has been provided to the Commissioner by the school.

  • Government primary school for Aboriginal students
  • 2020 enrolment of around 120 students across Kindergarten to Year 6. 
  • Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage 667, on the first percentile for educational advantage of students attending.

Student wellbeing approach

Moorditj Noongar Community College was established to provide an alternative setting for Aboriginal students. The school has modified its teaching approach to support better student engagement and wellbeing, recognising that mainstream education is not always a good fit for Aboriginal students and their families.

What has worked well in supporting student wellbeing?

Leadership, strategy and planning

The school’s strategic plan reflects wellbeing as a priority, as well as closing the gap in outcomes for Aboriginal students.

The school is implementing a Health and Wellbeing Plan and has small class sizes of under 20 students, with Education Assistants supporting each classroom, and structured learning techniques to address specific academic areas.

The school employs a local Elder who supports student connection to culture as well as the school’s connection with parents, families and the community.

The Positive Behaviour Support framework has been implemented within the school, and includes:

  • a school mascot, Birdiya Booyi (Boss Turtle) to encourage school identity

  • internal supervision for students who have been disruptive, rather than external suspensions

  • attendance incentives for students (e.g. class based weekly rewards and additional activities for students with high attendance)

  • behaviour incentives (e.g. participation in sports for students with good standing)

  • consequences for students balanced with demonstrating that students are also able to have a fresh start every day.

The school has also implemented Friendly Schools, Friendly Classrooms to support a positive whole-of-school culture and promote positive wellbeing outcomes.

Support for students

Supports for student health, wellbeing, attendance and engagement include:

  • affordable school uniforms, to support a sense of school belonging

  • bus transport support for students to and from home

  • daily breakfast and lunch

  • Foodbank nutrition training and whole-of-school cooking classes

  • health support, including dental checks, hearing checks and speech therapy. 

School chaplaincy support is available three days a week (partially funded by the school) and the school psychologist is available a half a day a week to support self-regulation training, assessment, and identifying culturally appropriate intellectual disability testing.

These staff members, alongside the school’s Elder, provide case management to individual students and families, with students at risk being case managed by the school principal. Students with complex trauma are often jointly case managed by the school with other specialist organisations, such as Parkerville, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, and Wungening Moort.

Social and emotional learning for students  

Social and emotional learning (SEL) is delivered through the Friendly Schools initiative and Positive Behaviours Support Strategy - providing students with the opportunity to learn and develop positive social and emotional skills and pro-social behaviours.

Three key values form the basis of the school’s Positive Behaviour Support Strategy; be kind, be caring and be respectful. Staff discuss strategies to meet these values, and teachers deliver one lesson each week on a value, such as care for the environment.

Student participation

A school councillor system provides leadership opportunities to students at events throughout the year, including opening a Children’s Week event, managing assemblies, and other responsibilities.

Feedback from students is gathered through the National School Opinion Survey (NSOS), with this input being used to inform the schools’ focus and approaches.

Safety for students

Cultural safety is guided by the implementation of the Department of Education’s Aboriginal Cultural Standards Framework, and is largely led by the school’s Elder. The school Elder provides direction for the school’s approaches to cultural learning and delivers initiatives to support cultural connection through cultural activities and lessons, such as learning Noongar language.

Specific safety education is delivered through mandated Protective Behaviours program, as well as the delivery of other relevant content such as, sessions on cyber safety. A daily check-in process with students allows staff to track and address any concerns for students, including safety issues or concerns.

Partnerships

Positive engagement and contact with parents, families and the wider community is supported by staff, as well as through the roles of the Aboriginal Islander Education Officers and the school’s Elder.

The school seeks direct feedback from parents and families as issues arise, making time to yarn face to face if there are any issues. Feedback is also encouraged through parent involvement on the school council, parent surveys and the delivery of different school events (e.g. reconciliation activities). The school also uses social media to celebrate student achievements and to engage parents.

Staff work with families to provide financial payment options,practical support, or refer them to support from other organisations where required.

The school often supports families directly where there are significant concerns or where they are at risk. This can include hosting and participating in interagency meetings, as well as supporting families with earlier access to supports before issues escalate.

Learning and development for educators

The school’s Health and Wellbeing Plan outlines the professional learning for staff including:

  • trauma-informed practice training (regularly reviewed and repeated)

  • Team Teach training in responding to challenging and aggressive behaviour

  • assessment of speech development issues through the school’s on-site language development centre.

The school is looking at a more targeted approach to staff training, identifying specific mental health training for the school in 2020. Monitoring staff wellbeing is also important for the school to ensure that staff are all functioning well and in a position to give their best for students.

Tracking impact

The impact of different initiatives is monitored both through the use of attendance data, anecdotally from students and parents, observation of student and family interactions with the school, and feedback through NSOS.

The school has identified a number of improvements in student wellbeing, including improved attendance and retention, reduction in student behavioural issues, strengthened relationships between peers, increased student engagement and increased parental engagement at school events.

The 2019 NSOS data demonstrated a range of positive highlights for the school. Students participating in the survey commented positively on liking school and feeling safe; teachers commenting they felt they were well supported and individual student needs were met; and parents noting improvements in student behaviour management, and in their children more broadly.

What has supported the school’s approach to student wellbeing?

  • a strong leadership team, engagement of their school Elder and a focus on the strengths of the school

  • a focus utilising the individual and complementary skills amongst staff

  • strong volunteer systems to implement and support the activities of the school

  • strong engagement with students and catering to student interests, for example, by delivering sports sessions early on in the day

  • Using the Small Schools Allowance to support student engagement activities.

What else is required to improve student wellbeing?

The school recognises competing priorities that the school tries to balance, impacting on their capacity to deliver wellbeing initiatives, including an overcrowding of the curriculum. The school has largely managed these challenges by focusing on the strategic priority areas and ensuring alignment to these.

Eastern Goldfields Education Support Centre

The following information has been provided to the Commissioner by the school.

  • Government high school for students with mild, moderate or severe intellectual disability and Autism Spectrum Disorder.
  • 2020 enrolment of approximately 31 students.
  • Co-located on Kalgoorlie-Boulder Community High School site.
  • Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage 903.
  • 17 per cent of students identify as Aboriginal, and seven per cent having a language background other than English. 

Student wellbeing approach

In 2018 the school established a dedicated student wellbeing team including education assistants, the principal and teachers, to review specific wellbeing issues impacting students, and areas for school improvement. This team chose to implement the Zones of Regulation approach within the school as a way to teach self-regulation skills. The school has also been part of the Mental Health in Schools Initiative, receiving resourcing of an additional 0.1 FTE classroom teacher to deliver mental health programs for the school.

What has worked well in supporting student wellbeing?

Leadership, strategy and planning

Eastern Goldfields Education Support Centre has implemented a range of strategies to support student wellbeing such as working towards being a Positive Behaviour Support school by following the implementation steps. This has included a positive behaviour policy to clarify the expectations and boundaries for staff, parents and students. The school also uses the Be You Framework for mental health, identifying the need to build staff resilience, improve curriculum planning for students, and develop a suicide postvention support plans for students.

As part of the Mental Health in Schools Initiative, the school implemented the Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies (PATHS) program, based on its evidence-base and alignment to the Zones of Regulation program already in place.  

The school’s work is also informed by:

  • the PERMA model and positive psychology framework, recognising that celebrating achievement is critical for wellbeing of staff and students

  • trauma informed practice, delivered through the School of Special Educational Needs

  • the Berry Street Trauma Framework, supporting teachers to identify body signals, signs and cues of distress amongst students, and encourage self-care strategies.

Support for students

A school psychologist is funded two days per week by the Department of Education with the school funding an additional half day per week. The school previously had a chaplain and is looking to recruit this role again, however has access the chaplain at the co-located senior high school.

The school provides a range of basic and logistical supports for students, including a breakfast club, school transport, purchasing basic school requirements where needed, and transition support into and out of the school, including handover between teachers and on-site activities.

A classroom behaviour agreement is in place for all students, and the school uses communication books as method to liaise with parents. 

Social and emotional learning for students

Social and emotional learning (SEL) is supported through the range of programs in place, as well as the health and wellbeing curriculum. The school also uses the Sexuality Education Counselling and Consultancy Agency (SECCA) app to improve student knowledge on relationships and sexuality, supported by an education assistant.

School staff are also looking at social skills learning for the entire student group, and restorative justice approaches to support student relationships after conflict.

Student participation

Staff are looking to enhance student participation and identify more leadership opportunities for students, such as through having students host assemblies, peer support for students transitioning into the school, and student council meetings. The school uses surveys to hear from students about their experiences and feedback received is generally very positive.

Safety for students

The school is informed by the Positive Behaviour Support schools approach, and a Positive Behaviour Policy guides physical safety expectations for both students and staff members. The school has an assessment framework and processes to identify any concerns for student behaviour.

Staff have undertaken Gatekeeper training and the school implements plans for all students who self-harm or have non-suicidal self-injury.

Partnerships

The school seeks feedback from parents, and uses this to guide their work. Feedback from parents identified that they wanted the school to focus on student wellbeing and life skill development, which staff have incorporated into school planning.  

The school has connections with a range of other external agencies in the area that they regularly refer students and families to, including:

  • full circle therapy for students with autism
  • headspace
  • Drumbeat program
  • Centrecare services
  • Department of Communities (Child Protection and Family Support), both for referrals and students in care
  • private psychologists
  • Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service.

The school regularly engages with the co-located school through the delivery of joint lessons and events and to support connection for students. The school is also looking at working with the local TAFE to build the Vocational Education and Training options for students.

The school has supported families to complete National Disability Insurance Scheme applications and access service providers within the local area.

Learning and development for educators

Professional learning has included Gatekeeper training for students with non-suicidal self-injuring, Mental Health First Aid, Team Teach training and Function of Behaviour, Berry Street training and training on the needs of students with autism. Whole school training is also planned to support the implementation of the Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies program. Staff wellbeing is an important area of focus and the school will continue to explore how it supports its educators.

Tracking impact

The school indicated that wellbeing of staff and students, and the school environment have improved as a result of their initiatives. There have been challenges in measuring the impacts for students due to difficulties in self-surveying for some students, as well as difficulty demonstrating sustained changes or impact over time, given that progress can fluctuate.

What has supported the school’s approach to student wellbeing?

  • a dedicated staff member allocated through the Mental Health in Schools initiative to coordinate and implement the initiative across the school
  • having the right team and mix of staff in place
  • shared staff understanding about the importance of student wellbeing and the need to address student needs before learning is possible
  • a shift to being solutions focused, as a result of the Behaviour Support policy
  • clear policies and processes
  • clear alignment between what the school is trying to achieve for students and feedback from what parents want for their children.

What else is required to improve student wellbeing?

  • limited information on what wellbeing approaches work for students with disability
  • needing to consider the adaptability of different wellbeing approaches for students with a disability, including the need to modify program content
  • managing the balance of prioritising wellbeing, alongside other priorities and requirements of the school (e.g. delivery of curriculum)
  • finding and prioritising time for training and staff professional development
  • maintaining progress and momentum throughout implementation
  • disruption due to changes in staff
  • difficulties in determining genuine welfare or wellbeing concern or issues for a student due to student communication challenges
  • ability to engage with parents due to logistical barriers (e.g. availability and accessibility of respite for parents to be able to attend meetings)
  • challenges in finding the right supports for students due to a lack of availability of support services and practitioners with a knowledge of intellectual disability and Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Karratha Primary School

The following information has been provided to the Commissioner by the school.

  • Independent public primary school, with the Karratha Education Support Centre on site.
  • 2020 enrolment of approximately 300 students.
  • Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage 934, on the 17th percentile in terms of the educational advantage of students attending.
  • Twenty six per cent of students are Aboriginal, and 10 per cent of all students have a language background other than English.

Student wellbeing approach

As well as broader student wellbeing and welfare challenges, the school recognises additional challenges of their regional location, with some students experiencing isolation from extended family, and limited service access within the local area.

Student wellbeing has been a strong focus for a number of years, through initial implementation of the Positive Behaviour Support framework in 2012, and later the Kids Matter and Be You Frameworks to address student mental health and wellbeing.

In 2018 and 2019 two of the school’s deputy principals were involved in the Department of Education’s Innovation Project, were they developed a ‘Thriving Filter’ to measure if students were meeting expected progress and to identify specific interventions or strategies to support them.  The school principal is also a Staff Wellbeing Toolkit leader, which is a program offering practical advice and a framework for the school to develop the health and wellbeing of staff.

What has worked well in supporting student wellbeing?

Leadership, strategy and planning

Leadership direction, and the involvement of the deputy principals in developing the Thriving Filter has helped to embed these wellbeing approaches within the school.  The current business plan outlines a range of strategies to support wellbeing:

  • continued implementation of the Positive Behaviour Support framework
  • promoting mental health and belonging through implementation of the Be You framework and Friendly Schools Plus program
  • developing a student services team including the school psychologist and chaplain
  • developing an induction process for new students and families
  • building an inclusive and welcoming environment for culturally diverse families
  • developing attendance processes and supports.

The school has a dedicated wellbeing team to lead initiatives. This team initially led the implementation of the Kids Matter and Mind Matters framework for mental health, which has been replaced by the Be You Framework.

The Thriving Filter is used across the school to identify students at medium risk of ‘not thriving’ in terms of wellbeing and engagement to prioritise. Teachers consider academic and non-academic data initially, and then further identify students to receive additional support over a five week period. This is later reviewed collaboratively by a small group of staff in a second meeting to determine the impact for students. This approach builds capacity in teachers, ensures shared learning about available strategies and supports accountability for staff to follow through on actions for students. School staff are further considering the approach to take for students most at risk, given a large number of their students fall into this category.  

Support for students

The school has access to a school psychologist and funds additional hours of support to enhance the service. A chaplaincy support position is also in place to provide support for student mental health and social issues, and vulnerable children. Suicidal ideation is also a concern however limited service availability in the area impacts on the supports that can be accessed.

The school has had to provide support for the basic needs of students, including breakfast club, emergency lunches and recesses, spare lunch boxes and drink bottles, stationery and spare uniforms.

Social and emotional learning for students

The school timetable includes a weekly hour of either social and emotional learning (SEL) or protective behaviour education with students. These programs include:

  • Friendly Schools Plus program - a social and emotional wellbeing and anti-bullying initiative
  • Zones of Regulation – to teach students about self-regulation, how to understand their feelings and behaviours, and how to manage their feelings
  • a module from School Drug Education and Road Aware (SDERA) focusing on challenges, choices and resilience.

The Positive Behaviour Support program explicitly teaches and models the core expected behaviours of the school – care, personal best and responsibility. A rewards system is used for students displaying these expected behaviours. School staff track how students are displaying positive and negative behaviours to determine any particular patterns of behaviours and address any potential problem areas.

Student participation

To inform the school’s involvement in the Innovation Project, students were surveyed through ethnographic research to identify issues they were facing within the school and provide a snapshot of student experiences and perspectives.

A number of students raised feeling disconnected from their peers and community, and based on this feedback, the school developed a school-based clubs initiative.  This initiative runs every Friday afternoon with students choosing a club that has no academic expectations and aimed to develop connections between students, peer groups, and adults within the school.

The Tell Them From Me survey was introduced to the school through the Fogarty Edvance program. This has enabled the school to track student experiences and improvements in their interest and motivation for learning.

Safety for students

Student safety is promoted through the school’s Positive Behaviour Support approach, with key messages delivered through whole school assemblies, explicit lessons and other activities. Behaviour is taught in the same way as academic content, and supports the school in maintaining a safe and orderly environment.

Bullying, including cyber-bullying, is addressed through the implementation of Friendly Schools Plus and incursions, such as Constable Care, and protective behaviours education is also delivered as classroom content.

Partnerships

The school’s business plan outlines community connection as a focus area, including strengthening relationships with students and service providers. The school regularly refers students to other service providers in the area, including to local disability service providers, or the local Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service – either accessing a child psychiatrist who is present in Karratha on a fly-in fly-out basis, or through teleconferencing options.

Learning and development for educators

Professional learning for staff has been centred on understanding trauma, and supporting teacher efficacy. Staff have identified additional training needs around social and emotional wellbeing and mental health for students and staff, and on supporting student self-regulation.

Tracking impact

The school has identified a clear improvement in productive student behaviours and positive improvements in peer and social relationships as a result of the Positive Behaviour Support Framework and Zones of Regulation approach.

What has supported the school’s approach to student wellbeing?

Staff recognise the importance of committing initial investment and resourcing to initially establish wellbeing initiatives, as well as ongoing resourcing to maintain them.

Having dedicated staff members has been critical for the school to implement different initiatives, as well as develop and enable leadership across the staff group. The school’s involvement in the Innovation Project also provided an important platform to develop ideas and the strategies required to implement them.

What else is required to improve student wellbeing?

The school outlined the need to improve the availability and capacity of external services in their regional location, including reduce the waitlist for services and reduce staff turnover in these agencies. Student transiency also needs to be supported by further investment to ensure students receive the consistent level of support that students require.  

East Butler Primary School

The following information has been provided to the Commissioner by the school.

  • Independent Public School
  • 2020 enrolment of approximately 550 students
  • Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage 997, on the 45th percentile in terms of the educational advantage of students attending.
  • Five per cent of students identify as Aboriginal, and 26 per cent have a language background other than English.

Student wellbeing approach

The school is one of 300 schools across WA to receive additional resourcing to support the delivery of mental health programs through the Department of Education’s Mental Health in School project.

What has worked well in supporting student wellbeing?

Leadership, strategy and planning

The importance of student wellbeing in reflected in the school’s values. The school established a dedicated wellbeing committee and a dedicated staff member to lead the Mental Health in Schools project, seeking feedback from staff on student wellbeing issues, and potential approaches to addressing these. This input helped the school to focus its efforts on building capacity and developing resources to support student mental health and wellbeing.

A whole-school wellbeing approach and framework for classrooms has been developed, with a focus on screening, teaching, and progress monitoring of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) skills. This framework collates age and year-level specific wellbeing information for school staff at a classroom level that includes:

  • details on observable behaviours of concern for students
  • tools to identify issues amongst students, including the Assessment of Lagging Skills and Unsolved Problems (ALLSUP) program and SSIS - Social and Emotional Learning (SSIS-SEL) assessment
  • specific plans for the delivery of health and wellbeing content to students.

Teachers develop an annual class profile of their students SEL needs to monitor progress or achievements over time, allowing the school to identify issues and initiate responses to students both at a whole-school level and individual level. Delivery of this framework is monitored through teacher performance management processes.

This work has been informed by positive psychology and child centred approaches, including the Collaborative and Proactive Solutions model, developed by Dr Ross Greene, which is based on understanding behaviour and implementing strategies to support children and young people with challenging behaviours.

The school has implemented an alternative to detentions, replacing it with Guided Positive Support (GPS) where students are given the opportunity to develop new skills.

The school also uses the Friendly School and Families program, a whole-school bullying prevention program supporting the development of positive social skills to prevent and manage bullying.

Support for students

The school has a permanent school psychologist for 1.5 days a week, and a chaplain available two days per week to provide direct support to students.

Staff use a number of assessment tools to identify where students might be “lagging” in terms of their social and emotional skills, enabling them to develop individual or whole-of-class plans to address skill development.

The school has a breakfast club for students, which is run by the school chaplain. Other supports include the school nurse, as well as community organisation Wanslea providing additional help and support for children and families where needed.  The school also works collaboratively with the School of Special Educational Needs: Behaviour and Engagement to support students with behavioural concerns.

The school has introduced a school mascot ‘Ellie the Elephant’. Teachers dress up in the mascot outfit and are made available for children to talk to if they want to open up about anything. The school uses the mascot to deliver important messages and reiterate school values throughout incursions and other school activities.

Social and emotional learning for students

The Collaborative and Proactive Solutions resources are used to teach students about particular social and emotional wellbeing concepts.

The school has a focus on kindness and reflection during class time, dedicated time for mindfulness meditation, and uses the Act Belong Commit messaging.

Mental health and reflection journals are provided for all students at the school to encourage students to explore their emotions, and develop new strategies to support their wellbeing.

Transition periods have been identified as a critical opportunity to intervene and support students, particularly through their transition into kindergarten, between classes on a day-to-day basis, as well as their transition to high school. 

To support different student transitions, the school initiated a sharing circle in class after lunch, where students share what has happened during the break, and where teachers can teach coping skills and resolution skills to the students.

Through the Mental Health initiative, the school has implemented focus areas for each day:  Mindful Mondays with dedicated time for relaxation and mindfulness, Terrific Tuesdays where students are encouraged to identify things that they look forward to, Welcoming Wednesdays, Thoughtful Thursday and Father’s Friday.

Student participation

Sharing circles are used within the school to give students a space to share any issues or concerns. These will often include the school chaplain, school psychologist, Wanslea, or friendship and peer groups.

The school has a student leadership team and school administrators meet with students to ask about how they feel at school and in their class, with this information further informing the school’s performance management meetings.

There are also student engagement activities and initiatives such as the Waste Warriors and Litter Legends, after school dance troupe, a choir and dance class.

Safety for students

The school has an anti-bullying policy specifying beliefs and actions around bullying and a framework to guide the prevention, early response and case management of bullying at the school. Protective behaviours education is delivered to all students, as required by all WA schools.

Partnerships

Partnership and engagement with parents has been identified as an area for development. The school is using different communication strategies to help parents support their child’s mental health and wellbeing, in line with the school’s actions.

The school have also engaged with Wanslea Children and Family Service to deliver the CUSP program for students, supporting children and young people aged 5 to 18 who are either experiencing emotional challenges or vulnerable to developing a mental health issue, and the SKIPS (Supporting Kids in Primary Schools) program, designed to teach students to better understand people who live with mental illness, the impact this has for families, as well as fostering support for children with family members with mental illness.

Learning and development for educators

Professional learning and development has a focus on increasing staff capacity to implement the various wellbeing programs, approaches and tools. Teachers who have attended ’train the trainer’ sessions on a particular approach or topic will share their learning within the school.

Tracking impact

The school’s different assessment tools will be used to determine the impact that the initiatives are having on student wellbeing and progress. Staff also use Integris as a way to log and track concerns for students, which enables them to monitor what is occurring for students and across the school.

What has supported the school’s approach to student wellbeing?

Having a dedicated and resourced staff member and leadership support has been important to the implementation of the school’s wellbeing approaches. 

What else is required to improve student wellbeing?

  • improved engagement with parents, to allow consent to make external referrals and share information with other agencies
  • improving responses and capacity from external agencies and access to thorough and timely assessments for children with learning difficulties or other support requirements
  • improved capacity of the school psychologist to better provide the level of support required for teachers and students.
Loreto Nedlands

The following information has been provided to the Commissioner by the school.

  • Catholic primary school
  • Pre-Kindergarten to Year 6 students
  • 2019 enrolment of approximately 198 students
  • Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage 1172, on the 98th percentile of educational advantage of students attending
  • One per cent of students at the school identify as Aboriginal, and 34 per cent have a language background other than English.

Student wellbeing approach

In 2018, Loreto Nedlands launched a whole-of-school approach to positive education, pastoral care and student wellbeing, the Blossoming Policy.

What has worked well in supporting student wellbeing?

Leadership, strategy and planning

The school’s focus on wellbeing is reflected both in the Strategic Plan, the strategic aims, and in the Blossoming Policy.

The Blossoming Policy provides a framework for the school’s approach to supporting student wellbeing; provide targeted learning opportunities for students to develop social and emotional skills, and developing common language and approaches across the school. The policy has been informed by the Positive Emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning and Accomplishment (PERMA) model, positive psychology framework, and the school’s values.

With leadership support and direction, a dedicated wellbeing leader was appointed to oversee the development and implementation of wellbeing approaches across the school. The school’s leadership committee on curriculum has contributed to planning this approach and identifying opportunities for professional learning for staff.

The school’s processes and strategies to deliver this wellbeing approach has also included developing school expectations in consultation with students, parents and staff (replacing the “school rules”), decreasing homework for students, minimising the term planner to have a better balance for students and implementing “brain breaks” for students during the day to support their engagement.

Support for students

The school has a social worker providing support two days a week and also has access to a school psychologist and behavioural psychologist through Catholic Education WA.

Social and emotional learning for students

Student social and emotional learning (SEL) is core to the Blossoming Policy, providing a whole-of-school framework for delivery for different age cohorts, within regular classes and through wellbeing specific lessons. In line with the positive education approach, the school’s wellbeing education focuses on three areas:

  • encouraging children and young people to move away from fixed mindsets ( being outcomes and results focused) to growth mindsets (being process based and strengths focused)
  • character strengths - which are positive traits or parts of a person’s personality impacting how they think, feel and behave
  • mindfulness - to support children’s self-awareness and management of their own feelings, thoughts and sensations.

Specific wellbeing lessons are delivered once every three weeks, based on one of the three priority areas, and further embedded in other lessons and activities. Other SEL programs in place include:

  • Positive Detective wellbeing and positive education program
  • Feel Brave book series, emotion cards and app to support students to explore their feelings and emotions
  • Smiling Mind mindfulness program, currently available for upper primary students
  • Random Acts of Kindness program and materials for each year level
  • supporting growth mindsets through curriculum, and by using concepts and ideas from the Mindset Works program
  • Resilience, Rights and Respectful Relationships learning resources and lessons (from the Victorian State Government).

The school has used the Gallup Strengths Poll for Year 5 and 6 students as an approach to identifying and support students’ character strengths. The school encourages students to recognise the strengths across their peer group, with discussions about these occurring at both a classroom level, and through one-on-one discussions with individual students.  

Student participation

Student participation is encouraged through ‘share boxes’ in classrooms, where students can share thoughts or concerns about their classroom, a school ‘blossoming box” where students can submit ideas for the school and reflection opportunities for students.

Student leadership opportunities also involves Year 6 students taking the lead to run wellbeing activities for their peers and the school in The Wellness 60 program. The student-led activities have included relaxation, mindfulness, yoga, and other activities focused on building wellbeing and resilience.

Safety for students

Student safety is reflected as a key goal in the school’s strategic plan, and guided by the use of the Keeping Safe child protection curriculum, and Protective Behaviours education with students.

Partnerships

Parent engagement has included parent training on different topics, usually related to the wellbeing concepts being taught to students, and is offered once a term.

A ‘positive parent posse’ was started at the school, initially as a small parent volunteer group operating once a term, to support family engagement. The school acknowledged the need for such groups to be parent-driven and to be strengthened.

Learning and development for educators

The dedicated wellbeing leader in the school has a graduate certificate in Positive Education and is currently completing a Masters in Applied Positive Psychology. This wellbeing leader provides training to other staff to support the implementation of the school’s wellbeing approaches. Other forms of training are provided to staff members, as well as whole staff meetings where staff can raise areas of concern or issues for consideration. The school is looking at ways to share success stories of the educators and highlight positive student outcomes.

The school also has a connection with the Positive Education Schools Association, which provides a link in to share and develop practice in the positive education approach with other schools.

Tracking impact

Mechanisms to track and determine the impact of the Blossoming Policy are being implemented, including tracking student growth mindsets and strengths across Years 3–6, any trends that are being observed or changing across the school, observations from other initiatives, the results of the Gallup poll in Years 5 and 6, and any changes to student understanding of wellbeing. Anecdotally, students and staff are demonstrating a growing awareness of the concepts being taught, including better self-recognition of student strengths and traits.

What has supported the school’s approach to student wellbeing?

Support from school leadership, staff, parents and the community has been crucial in implementing the school’s approaches to student wellbeing. The wellbeing materials and content delivered to students has been carefully developed to ensure it builds on student knowledge over time.

What else is required to improve student wellbeing?

  • dedicated time and resourcing for teachers to develop and implement wellbeing strategies and provide the level of individual support required
  • improved resourcing and support to implement wellbeing approaches, and to balance other curriculum and teaching demands
  • ongoing education for staff and teachers in understanding student wellbeing and developing specific skills so that staff can respond to student needs
  • consistency between the content of the school’s wellbeing approaches and the actual practice and actions of teachers and students
  • support for students who might require additional assistance, but where there are challenges in engaging the parents.
Westfield Park Primary School

The following information has been provided to the Commissioner by the school.

  • Independent public school in Camillo, south east Perth.
  • 2020 enrolment of 309 students
  • Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage 911, on the 11th percentile of educational advantage of students attending
  • Approximately 11 per cent of students identify as Aboriginal and 62 per cent have a language background other than English.

Student wellbeing approach  

The school has used the Australian Early Development Census data to track and understand student experiences. In 2009, 75 per cent of its students were vulnerable on one or more AEDC domains, and 52 per cent developmentally vulnerable on two or more domains.

To address these vulnerabilities and support student engagement and educational attainment, the school has prioritised their efforts to support positive student outcomes, including maximising education achievements and opportunities for all students, strengthening the partnerships between home, school and the community, early intervention and a strong student services team, enhancing staff commitment and accountability and improving the buildings, grounds and infrastructure.

What has worked well in supporting student wellbeing?

Leadership, strategy and planning

The school’s strategic framework and planning documents outline key focus areas, initiatives to improve child wellbeing outcomes and partnerships with families and community, which are further outlined in this document.

The school’s student services team comprises a school psychologist (0.2 FTE), a school-based social worker (0.6 FTE), an Aboriginal education officer (0.4 FTE), school chaplain (0.4 FTE) and deputy principal.

The Kids Matter Framework has been used since 2012, with the school being formally recognised as a Kids Matter School in 2017. This framework has since been replaced by the Be You Framework for mental health in schools. A school action team deliver the core Be You activities for the school and coordinate staff professional development, as well as developing additional complementary materials which strengthen the school’s trauma-informed approach.

Support for students

The school’s student services team lead support for students, including case conferencing for individual students, identifying individual students for referrals to external service providers and case management.

The school-based social worker provides a range of supports and interventions, including:

  • individual counselling for children and families with eight to 10 sessions for children and/or their parent based on the Circle of Security attachment model
  • therapeutic services for at risk and hard to reach families, and transitioned into other longer-term programs with external agencies
  • social and emotional learning (SEL) groups
  • community development, through school breakfast program, volunteer management, community kitchen garden, grant management, interagency and stakeholder engagement, and early intervention playgroups
  • critical incident/disclosure management
  • student services case-management for students at educational risk.

This social work role sits centrally within the student services team, and was developed over time through partnerships with organisations such as Communicare, Parkerville, and work with Curtin University to develop a framework for the role.

The Nurture Group was established by the school as a specialist early intervention program for children who are identified at risk in terms of their social and emotional development. The program is based on attachment theory and on building psychosocial emotional intelligence amongst students as the foundation to their ongoing participation, engagement and preparedness for learning.

The school identifies children to participate in the Nurture Group through Boxall Profile screening in Pre-Primary and Year 1. Those identified as vulnerable in terms of attachment and social and emotional development are invited to participate in the Nurture Group for a year during Years 1-2. The Nurture Group is capped at 14 students and receives additional education assistant support. The program offers smaller classes with increased supports and focuses on play-based learning, academic outcomes, social and emotional development and family engagement.

Social and emotional learning for students

Social and emotional learning (SEL) focuses on developing self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision making. These programs include Protective Behaviours, Keeping Kids Safe Program, Weaving Wellbeing programs, PATHS, social skills groups and after-school wellbeing groups. Teachers can also draw on a library to help plan and deliver evidence-based SEL programs. Targeted SEL is also embedded in the Nurture Group.

Student participation

Connection and inclusion within the school is encouraged through school theme days and incursions each term, as well as after school activities to foster engagement between students, parents and the school community, including craft groups, sports, gardening, social skills, cooking and a Noongar appreciation group.

The school has recently re-designed its curriculum to promote student engagement, with a strong focus on play-based learning in early childhood (KindergartenꟷYear 2) and inquiry-based learning in Year 3ꟷ6.

Safety for students

The school uses a trauma informed approach to assist staff to see beyond children’s behaviours and identify underlying concerns which can then be addressed by the student services team. Support is also provided to school staff to manage mandatory reporting and child protection concerns, self-harm and suicidal ideation case-management.

Partnerships

Consultation with parents has informed the school’s activities, implementing on-site playgroups and after school activities for students as a result of feedback. The school also uses the National School Opinion Survey to gather input from parents.  

The school encourages communication and parental engagement through home visits for all families with children entering kindergarten, sending home postcards to parents with artwork and positive feedback from the teacher about the child’s achievements, encouraging involvement in incursions and school activities, developing a family and community volunteers program and delivering professional development sessions for parents under the Be You Framework.

The school developed a Community Block on site, offering a range of school-based and external services and activities to meet the needs of children, their families and the community available between 6amꟷ6pm. These include before and after school care and day care, external sports programs, playgroups, parenting and family programs, health and development screening and art programs.  

In 2019 the Department of Education refurbished the school’s Community Block to create a Child and Parent Centre. This centre provides improved access for children and families requiring support, from the time children are born through to starting school and beyond. The school also works in partnership with service schools on common child developmental risk factors and vulnerabilities.

Learning and development for educators

The school’s current Be You action team leads learning and development for staff each term in creating a positive school community, social and emotional learning, building strong relationships with families, responding to children with mental health difficulties and responding to critical incidents.

Tracking impact

The school uses school attendance and engagement data, feedback from parents and AEDC data. There have been increases in attendance, less student transience, reduction in suspensions and a significant decrease in the number of students assessed as vulnerable through the AEDC.

The school also uses a performance monitoring system to analyse data and identify areas of strength and weakness in learning areas.

What has supported the school’s approach to student wellbeing?

School leadership has provided support and direction for this work. The school used existing resources to implement a range of initiatives, by redirecting resourcing within the school, developing strong partnerships with external agencies and community service providers and by having service provision co-located on the school site.

What else is required to improve student wellbeing?

The school recognises the need to improve capacity of other services (e.g. mental health) to ensure students and families have access to the support they need. The school also recognises the ongoing importance of building the capacity and understanding of staff in trauma informed practice as a critical component of supporting student wellbeing.

Yanchep Secondary College

The following information has been provided to the Commissioner by the school.

  • Independent public high school
  • 2020 enrolment of approximately 724 students
  • Includes a Learning Support Centre, staffed by a Special Education Needs Coordinator and six education assistants
  • Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage is 978, on the 35th percentile in terms of the educational advantage of students attending
  • Approximately six per cent of students identify as Aboriginal and six per cent have a language background other than English.

Student wellbeing approach

As a newly established school, the leadership team has identified a number of priority areas include student achievement, effective teaching and leadership, and building a unique school. New policies, processes and strategies focus on school wellbeing and engagement and to set a new culture and tone for the school.

What has worked well in supporting student wellbeing?

Leadership, strategy and planning

The school’s student support services approach student services staff in leadership roles, coordinating the school’s approaches to core focus areas of excellence, student engagement, creating a calm environment and developing high performing staff members. These focus areas involve a range of initiatives, including:

  • Excellence: creating pathways for students and staff thorough tracking of student performance, including attendance, academic achievement, and any concerns or risk factors
  • Student engagement: early identification of students at risk, student review, and identification of students through transition periods
  • Identifying and implementing required adjustments to support student learning
  • Creating a calm environment as a focus for all staff and students
  • High performing staff members. 

The school has developed the ‘Yanchep Approach to Classroom Practice’ which outlines expected behaviours of students and teachers and the ways in which teachers will support and engage students in learning. The school’s approach has been informed by the Collaborative and Proactive Solutions model, developed by Dr Ross Greene, and work of the School of Special Educational Needs: Behaviour and Engagement.

Support for students

The school has strategies in place to identify and support students at risk or who are experiencing challenges. Two youth workers support students and education assistants provide one-on-one support to eligible students. The lead school psychologist is responsible for the school’s work around mental health.

Individual planning and case management is in place for students identified as being at risk in terms of attendance and participation. Where students have been excluded from class, they receive one-on-one support from an education assistant to help them understand their behaviour and develop self-regulation skills.

Social and emotional learning for students

The GEM (Gratitude, Empathy and Mindfulness) approach is used at the school, to recognise individual strengths, practice mindfulness and growth mindsets. Each student starts their school day in their home room with the same teacher, to support stronger relationships between peers and teachers. This time involves broad checks in with all students and the delivery of health-linked curriculum tailored for each year group (e.g. bullying or managing stress). Any student concerns raised during this session are forwarded on to student services for ongoing monitoring.

The bespoke WRAP (Worthy, Responsible, Active and Proactive) program assists students who are struggling to engage in daily learning or with specific needs, as identified through their attendance and classroom engagement. This program aims creates project time for students within the timetable, with a focus on social and emotional wellbeing as well as building relationships and trust with the student, rather than purely focusing on engagement in the classroom.

The school also implements the Zones of Regulation approach with students to support the development of their self-regulation skills and delivers content from School Drug Education and Road Aware (SDERA). 

Student participation

A student council engages with other classes and students, the Head Boy and Head Girl meet regularly with the principal, and are also members of the school board and the school are considering additional opportunities to support student participation. 

As well as using the National Schools Opinion Survey, the school has implemented a bi-annual student wellness survey to measure student wellbeing and experiences. This feedback has been used to shape the school’s priorities, including addressing student anxiety and concerns for bullying.

Safety for students

Positive behaviours and student safety are encouraged through the Yanchep Approach to Classroom Practices, the use of the Collaborative Proactive Solutions and behaviour management processes. The school works proactively to support individualised safety planning, and referrals to external or specialist organisations.

Partnerships

The school is engaged with a range of service providers, providing external or in-reach support to the school, including:

  • headspace and HelpingMinds on site two days a week providing mental health support
  • Youth Focus
  • volunteering programs for students
  • Mercycare and Centrecare
  • involvement of the local council youth outreach team
  • Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) program for disengaged students, linking them to local training organisations or providers.

The school has also focused on working to support parent and family relationships and engagement, through open dialogue and mediation in some instances.

Learning and development for educators

Staff wellbeing and welfare is recognised as an important foundation to support and address the needs of students. In addition to this, staff training and capacity building has focused on the following areas:

  • managing student behaviour (including through the use of instructional education and classroom management strategies)
  • de-escalation through whole school classroom management strategies
  • trauma-informed practice and healing-centred engagement
  • Zones of Regulation, and creating common language for students and teachers
  • Circles of Courage model of positive youth development
  • principles of restorative justice.

The school has leadership opportunities for first year teachers and 5th year teachers and provides coaching, teacher observations and feedback as part of the ongoing development of staff capability.

Tracking impact

Since the school opened, there has been demonstrated improvements in attendance as well as reductions in the number of suspensions, and positive shifts in terms of student satisfaction with the school. The bi-annual student wellness survey also assists in tracking the experiences of students within the school.

What has supported the school’s approach to student wellbeing?

The support, direction and leadership within the school has been important to the school implementing their wellbeing approaches.  Sharing decision making across the student support services team has also allowed some autonomy for staff, and enabled decision making and actions arising to be made in a timely way.

What else is required to improve student wellbeing?

  • accessing timely assessment and diagnoses for students where there are concerns
  • provision of alternative classroom settings
  • the ability to support students at risk who are ineligible for funding
  • improving the way that agencies work together for a common outcome for the students.

The school also finds it challenging to access appropriate supports for students appropriate due to a lack of external agencies within the area.

You might be interested in