Wellbeing framework for schools

The Wellbeing Framework for Schools supports schools to create teaching and learning environments that enable students to be healthy, happy, engaged and successful. Wellbeing in our public schools is driven by the themes of Connect, Succeed and Thrive.

This page includes strategies for school staff to use in the classroom and school-wide to promote student wellbeing across the five domains; cognitive, social, emotional, physical and spiritual. For more information, contact wellbeing@det.nsw.edu.au

Wellbeing Strategies

Meaning and Purpose

Activities that promote meaning and purpose:

  • promote a sense of control. Students must feel they can have some ability to choose or influence their involvement.
  • promote feeling valued. Value and recognise student effort and contribution.
  • are meaningful and authentic. Students need to feel that what they are doing is worthwhile and has significance beyond the immediate task at hand.
  • are embedded into teaching and learning programs, such as class discussions

Encouraging student voice

The term "student voice" describes how students give their input about what happens within the classroom, school and broader community. Strategies include:

  • increasing student opportunities to share their thoughts and opinions such as being involved in developing learning materials or marking criteria for a unit of work or on a wider level, helping creating school wellbeing programs
  • giving students choice in their learning such as being able to choose different assignment modes
  • authentic or ‘real life’ learning opportunities which give students meaning and purpose to their learning include: inquiry based learning, co-curricular activities and forging links beyond the classroom
  • formal student leadership structures, such as SRC, peer support, peer mentoring
  • facilitate student run extracurricular clubs and groups
  • facilitate students working within the school and broader community for example, volunteering or doing a project with the local community.

More resources can be found on the Student Voice, participation and leadership webpage

Values Education

  • Teach, model and reinforce the school values
  • Ensure ACARA’s general capabilities are explicitly taught and practised
  • Involve students in developing rules and classroom expectations
  • Build positive relationships with students
  • Provide opportunities for students to actively practise and to live out, the values being fostered by the school.
  • Embed the teaching of positive values and character traits within the curriculum. Practices and programs focused on the development of positive values and character involves activities such as:
    • devoting classroom time to the teaching and exploration of values
    • organising a visual display of values in classrooms, which may be student-generated posters
    • discussing role models to illustrate how people that we admire live these values
    • celebrating and recognising the actions of students that promote school or shared values
    • supporting co-curricular activities, for example the environmental club or volunteering in the community.

Building community connections

Schools build different community connections for specific purposes; some to improve student awareness of global issues, teach students about the value of active citizenship and provide opportunities for service. Others help build capacity and a collective identity within the immediate community. Community partners can offer real opportunities for students to safely experience, apply, internalise, enact and reflect on their spiritual wellbeing. Strategies include;

  • working with and within the community
  • fundraising activities
  • students, staff and community working together on issues they choose and value
  • involving community groups in assemblies and other forums.

Celebrating and supporting diversity

Give students opportunities to connect with their cultural, religious and spiritual backgrounds. Strategies include:

  • opportunities for celebration of heritage, for example, Harmony Day, NAIDOC week, Lunar New Year and cultural performances at assemblies
  • appropriate accommodation of student prayer practices
  • translating documents for parents when needed
  • ensuring activities are accessible for all students


Processing new information results in ‘cognitive load’ on working memory which can affect learning outcomes. Strategies for minimising cognitive load and maximising competence include:

  • providing brain breaks
  • targeting teaching within their zone of proximal development (using high challenge, high support)
    • scaffolding new learning
    • providing timely and meaningful feedback
    • setting realistic teaching and learning goals
  • identifying or activating prior knowledge before introducing concepts before building upon it. This activates prior knowledge, enabling students to incorporate new knowledge into existing schemas. Strategies include:
    • asking students to discuss prior knowledge using ‘think-pair-share’
    • asking student to sketch / create a ‘mind map’ / write a paragraph to show what they already know
    • students writing down aspects of prior knowledge on post-it notes
    • doing quick recap activities to begin a lesson, “what did we learn last lesson?”
    • teacher led questioning on prior concepts
    • students quickly looking over the content of a prior lesson and writing a short summary or explaining it to a peer
  • structuring materials and instruction to maximize working memory
    • presenting materials in a simple – to – complex order
    • presenting individual elements of the material first before the integrated task is introduced
    • creating simple or ‘clean’ worksheets / PowerPoint presentations without decorative, distracting elements
    • having worked examples / models showing students what to do and how to do it. Follow up with practice feedback
    • minimising extraneous load (information not relevant to learning)
    • minimising repetition of information. The same information presented in multiple forms causes the ‘redundancy effect’.
    • eliminating split attention by integrating separate sources of information.


  • Criterion referenced evaluation
  • Student centred atmosphere
  • Relatedness of the tasks is clear
  • Positive relationships within the learning environment – between teacher / student and peers.

Promoting positive relationships and connectedness

Teacher - student connections and provision of teacher support and understanding has a strong impact on student’s feelings of belonging. Belonging is associated with increased engagement with learning and education (CESE, 2015). Strategies include:

  • greeting the students by name as they enter the classroom
  • checking in with individual students
  • showing an interest in the students’ lives outside the classroom
  • negotiating classroom rules with the students for creating a safe learning environment
  • encouraging and valuing student voice in classroom decisions.
  • providing choice whenever possible to be responsive to students’ interests, abilities and preferences.
  • communicating positive expectations for learning and behaviour.
  • positively reinforcing students verbally
  • speaking to students privately about any problem behaviour. Make your motivation explicit e.g. I am choosing to speak with you privately so that I don’t embarrass you in front of your peers.

Promoting prosocial behaviour

  • Foster pro-social behaviour by engaging students in helping activities such as peer tutoring, classroom tasks, and teacher assistance
  • Model respectful behaviour and language towards students and staff
  • Use classroom activities and lessons to explore and discuss empathy, personal strengths, fairness, kindness, and social responsibility
  • Use a variety of teaching methods such as discussion questions, extra readings, and group projects to foster critical and reflective thinking, problem-solving skills, and the capacity to work effectively with others
  • Teaching and reinforcing positive social skills such as self-awareness, social awareness, responsibility and decision making.
    • Example of self-awareness – show you understand. For example, “I can understand why you would feel angry. Let’s think this through.”
    • Example of social awareness – encourage perspective taking, “Bob didn’t realise that was important. I don’t think he did it on purpose – do you?

Create safe classroom, playground  and online learning environments.

Behavioural expectations need to be explicit, fair, consistently applied and jointly constructed. This enables the classrooms and playgrounds to be predictable and thus safe. Strategies include:

  • having clear expectations, structures, routines and accountability systems that promotes responsibility from all stakeholders
  • fostering positive language and inclusive play at recess and lunch
  • providing ‘safe’ places for students to go at recess and lunch
  • quality and active supervision of playground and common areas by teachers
  • greeting students as they enter classrooms and checking in with them regularly
  • include digital citizenship strategies as per the Student use of digital devices and online services policy.

Teach social and emotional skills and enhance self-regulation.

Social and emotional learning (SEL) involves students having opportunities to learn and practice social skills. Examples of SEL programs used in Australian schools in the past have including KidsMatter and MindMatters. Further resources can be found at https://beyou.edu.au. Teachers should:

  • integrate social and emotional learning into teaching and learning programs. Some of these align with ACARA’s personal and social capabilities. The ACARA website offers practical strategies for incorporating these capabilities into all KLA’s
  • do mindfulness activities when appropriate
  • model effective social and emotional skills and respect for others in your own behaviour and relationships
  • set practical tasks and cooperative activities that promote problem-solving, social skills, negotiation and communication.

Developing and supporting school wide strategies

To support students’ emotional wellbeing across the school, teachers can:

  • support the adoption of practices and policies in your organisation that foster wellbeing, such as anti-bullying strategies and positive behaviour support
  • contribute to team discussions and participate in professional development
  • encourage students to participate
  • refer students to the wellbeing team if concerned.

Promoting physical activity

  • Promote and facilitate walking or riding bikes to school
  • Provide structural enablers at school such as secure bike racks or lock-up areas for bicycles
  • Support active play during recess / lunch / before school by providing sport equipment
  • Create and promote co-curricular activities
  • Movement breaks in all classes. Keep these short and manageable, 2-5 minutes each

Creating a safe environment

  • Risk assessments communicated to staff and students in advance
  • No soft-drink machines
  • Bubblers installed and regularly maintained
  • Visible and active playground supervision by teachers
  • Soap and hand sanitiser being available for students and staff

Good nutrition and sleep

  • Breakfast clubs
  • Parent information nights
  • Student made posters around the school
  • Classroom debates about nutrition and sleep
  • School gardens – students grow fresh herbs and vegetables; learnabout nature, nutrition and health; whilst developing a sense of ownership of the health promotion initiative
  • Healthy school canteen – students learn to choose healthy options; canteens follow Healthy Canteen Policy
  • Co-ordinated, cross-curricular approach using a deliberate focus on promotion of healthy eating habits

Whole school approach

  • Live Life Well @ School assists primary schools to develop whole school strategies that support physical activity and healhy eating

What is wellbeing?

In very broad terms, wellbeing can be described as the quality of a person's life. Wellbeing needs to be considered in relation to how we feel and function across several areas, including our cognitive, emotional, social, physical and spiritual wellbeing.

Wellbeing in schools is for all students. A focus on wellbeing goes beyond just welfare needs of a few individual students and aims for all students to be healthy, happy, successful and productive individuals who are active and positive contributors to the school and society in which they live.

Wellbeing Framework for Schools

The NSW Wellbeing Framework for schools is a statement of what is valued as excellence in student wellbeing in NSW public schools. It supports schools to create a planned approach to wellbeing using evidenced based strategies that are strengths based, preventative and focus on early intervention. This includes strengthening students’ cognitive, physical, social, emotional and spiritual wellbeing domains of development. Schools will achieve this through planning and decision-making at the local level to meet the needs of their students.

Schools can engage with professional learning to build staff capacity on:

  • understanding the domains of the Wellbeing Framework for Schools
  • classroom and school-wide strategies to build holistic student wellbeing
  • how to build-in student wellbeing improvement measures into new and existing wellbeing programs.

The Wellbeing Self-assessment Tool

The Wellbeing Self-assessment Tool is available as an optional resource for schools to assess their student wellbeing approaches and programs.

The Tool is designed to help schools understand wellbeing by engaging with the Wellbeing Framework for Schools and the key concepts that foster the development of healthy, happy, productive and successful individuals.

The Wellbeing Self-assessment Tool has been developed to assist schools in understanding and assessing their schools’ approaches and programs to support student wellbeing. The Tool includes processes that help schools identify and assess their current wellbeing approaches and programs, find evidence to support their assessment and identify areas for future growth.

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