The Review of the National School Reform Agreement (NSRA) report was released on 20 January 2023. It examines how well national policy initiatives by the Australian, State and Territory Governments have achieved the objectives and outcomes set out in the Agreement and makes recommendations to inform the design of the next school reform agreement.
The review recommends redesigning the agreement to focus more attention on lifting academic results for all students, supporting quality teaching and school leadership, and promoting students’ wellbeing.
The report details how student wellbeing outcomes were not captured in the NSRA and since it was signed, wellbeing has been acknowledged as an important outcome in itself and as a means of supporting learning through the Mparntwe Education Declaration. To this end, it recommends that a new outcome specific to student wellbeing be added. The report details how many children and young people struggle with poor wellbeing because of experiences in and outside their schools and therefore teachers should be provided with more support to help students manage their wellbeing. It acknowledges that low levels of wellbeing directly impact on a student's capacity to learn and can particularly impact students who experience challenges to engagement and inclusion at school, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.
Schools can promote wellbeing by providing inclusive environments and supporting the social and emotional development of students so that they are equipped to cope with the various stresses of life.
The below extract from the report details the findings and recommendations related to student wellbeing:
Many students experience poor wellbeing and some do not receive effective support.
A significant proportion of children and young people experience poor social and emotional wellbeing.
Poor wellbeing can be particularly pronounced among students who experience challenges to engagement and inclusion at school, for example, children and young people in out-of-home care, students with disability and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.
Poor wellbeing directly affects students’ capacity to learn.
While wellbeing is influenced by many factors outside the school gate, poor wellbeing can be exacerbated by responses from schools.
Effective school leadership and teacher practices are essential elements for supporting student wellbeing within schools.
Australian, State and Territory Governments have many initiatives and information resources to support student wellbeing, but schools have not consistently implemented evidenced-based approaches for all students.
Governments should design the next intergovernmental school reform agreement so that it includes a focus on student wellbeing.
Parties to the next school reform agreement should add improved student wellbeing as an outcome of the agreement, develop a new sub-outcome on improving students’ subjective wellbeing, and commit to annual reporting.
Governments should collect data for a composite wellbeing index but provide schools and data providers the flexibility to choose from a range of high-quality and relevant survey instruments, including those used in existing student surveys.
Bilateral agreements under the next school reform agreement should include actions intended to improve student wellbeing, and report each year on progress. At a minimum, bilateral agreements should include actions to support all schools to adopt wellbeing strategies that:
provide support and training for teachers to identify students experiencing poor wellbeing and to respond appropriately
articulate the role and responsibilities of wellbeing staff within the school
clarify student pathways for support, both within and beyond the school.
Click below to read to the overview of the Review of the National
School Reform Agreement Study report
Our hope at Positive Pieces Education is that these recommendations to support student wellbeing are adopted in the next NSRA so that schools are supported to implement and sustain school-wide, evidence-based policies and practices, including the explicit instruction of social and emotional skills in the classroom. Programs like Second Step, that provide teachers with every resource they need to conduct lessons, monitor and assess the progress of their students, provide comprehensive training for all staff and supports for school-wide implementation go a long way to address the concerns detailed in the report and meet the recommendations.
Positive Pieces Education is the Australian and New Zealand publisher of the Second Step social-emotional learning program. Learn more