Supporting students' sense of belonging

This publication was originally published 29 June 2020.

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When students feel a sense of belonging at school, they have positive relationships, value learning and engage with their school environment. This synthesis of research explains why students’ sense of belonging is important and provides practical suggestions for schools to support and care for their students.

Key findings

  • Students who experience a positive sense of belonging at school also have improved overall wellbeing, mental health and long-term academic success.
  • Sense of belonging is linked to both student engagement and wellbeing and teaching practices.
  • Students who experience a positive sense of belonging are more likely to experience positive friendships, an absence of bullying at school and co-curricular participation at school. They also tend to value learning, show high levels of effort, interest and motivation, as well as positive homework behaviour.
  • Effective classroom management, teaching relevant content, leading by example in the classroom, positive teacher-student relationships and advocacy (or support) at school can all enhance students’ sense of belonging.
  • A positive sense of belonging is important throughout a child’s schooling, particularly during periods of transition.

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 resource

The ‘Supporting students’ sense of belonging’ resource explains why students’ sense of belonging is important and provides practical suggestions for schools to support and care for 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 timing of when to use the 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 support students’ sense of belonging in daily practice
  • access the What works best Scout report and 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 students’ sense of belonging.

Teachers can:

  • read the synthesis paper and reflect on current practice using the accompanying reflection guide
  • identify practices in the paper that can improve students’ sense of belonging 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 students’ sense of belonging.


Email feedback about this resource to using the subject line ‘Re: Supporting students’ sense of belonging’. 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 – Connect: ‘Our students will be actively connected to their learning, have positive and respectful relationships and experience a sense of belonging to their school and community.’

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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