Supporting advocacy at school

This publication was originally published 29 June 2020.

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When students feel that they are advocated for at school, they feel that they have someone who they can turn to for help and advice, they feel cared for and are supported to achieve their best. This synthesis of research explains why student advocacy at school is important and provides practical suggestions for schools to support their students.

Key findings

  • Students who experience high levels of advocacy at school have improved learning and wellbeing outcomes and are also more likely to have:
    • increased motivation and effort in lessons
    • an enhanced sense of belonging
    • an improved chance of completing school.
  • Advocacy at school is linked to both student engagement and wellbeing and teaching practices.
  • Teachers and staff can be effective advocates at school by encouraging student voice and incorporating it into decision-making at school. Teachers can encourage student voice by investing time in getting to know their students, having conversations with students about their learning and aspirations, and responding to student surveys and student feedback.
  • Students experience different levels of advocacy at school at different stages of their schooling. Students from high socioeconomic backgrounds are more likely to report higher levels of advocacy at school than those from low socioeconomic backgrounds, while girls and boys experience advocacy differently at different stages of their schooling.
  • Schools are able to promote advocacy for students by focusing on periods of transition, providing opportunities to build relationships, encouraging student voice, establishing programs to get to know their students and providing targeted support.

Student sense of belonging in NSW public schools

Students report on the level of belonging at school that they experience in the student survey offered to NSW public schools – Tell Them From Me (TTFM). TTFM reports on student, parent and teacher perspectives of their school and provides data on students’ wellbeing and engagement, as well as the teaching practices they encounter in the classroom. This paper presents findings on how to support students' sense of belonging, drawn from longitudinal modelling of TTFM data, NSW case studies and literature reviews conducted by the Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation (CESE). Accompanying papers provide findings on how to support high academic expectations and advocacy at school and to support school improvement with TTFM.

Purpose of this resource

The 'Supporting advocacy at school' resource explains why advocacy at school is important and provides practical suggestions for schools to support their students. It is part of a series that summarises the research on student wellbeing and engagement.

When and how to use

This resource is a synthesis of research. School leaders and teachers can read, reflect on, discuss and implement principles highlighted in the report as part of school-developed High Impact Professional Learning (HIPL).

The appropriate time to use this resource may differ for each school, leader and teacher.

School leaders can:

  • unpack the paper, using the accompanying reflection guide, as part of whole-school professional development and/or stage or grade team meetings
  • encourage teachers to share key findings and reflect on classroom implementation during professional development
  • reflect on how teachers currently support advocacy at school in daily practice
  • access the Advocacy, Expectations, Belonging: By School over Time Scout report to facilitate discussions with staff about areas to improve across the school
  • support staff to find connections between What works best, the School Excellence Framework and advocacy at school.

Teachers can:

  • read the synthesis paper and reflect on current practice using the accompanying reflection guide
  • identify practices in the paper that can improve advocacy at school in the classroom
  • reflect on the impact of implementation
  • refer to additional CESE publications listed in the paper to further expand understanding of how to support advocacy at school.


Email feedback about this resource to using the subject line ‘Re: Supporting advocacy at school’. You can also subscribe to the CESE newsletter and connect with us on Yammer.

Alignment to system priorities and/or needs: NSW Department of Education Strategic Plan 2018-2022: 'Every student is known, valued and cared for'.

Alignment to School Excellence Framework: Learning domain – wellbeing.

Alignment with other existing frameworks: NSW Wellbeing Framework for Students – Succeed: ‘Our students will be respected, valued, encouraged, supported and empowered to succeed.’

Reviewed by: Learning and Wellbeing.

Created/last updated: Originally published 29 June 2020.

To be reviewed: CESE publications are prepared through a rigorous process. Resources are reviewed periodically as part of an ongoing evaluation plan.


  • Research report
  • Student engagement and wellbeing
  • Tell Them From Me

Business Unit:

  • Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation
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