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.

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