Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Sydney have had a long history of exercising a role in the pastoral care of their students and it began with the work of the religious congregations. The very term ‘pastoral care’ traces its origins back to Jesus’ description of himself as the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-21). This endeavour has been, and continues to be, an educational endeavour for the development of the ‘whole person’ and reflects ‘…the centrality of the human person in the educational project of the Catholic school’ (The Catholic School on the Threshold of the Third Millennium no. 9). It is recognised, in this regard, that schools have a primary purpose in education, and that they need to be sensitive to the fact that there will be instances in which the appropriate course of action is to work in partnership with or refer to other agencies within the Church, or more widely. Parent support for, and involvement in, their children’s education is a critical factor in student engagement, achievement and wellbeing.
Sydney Catholic schools (SCS) are commissioned by the Archbishop’s Charter to “implement policies and practices for pastoral care, student wellbeing and an inclusive curriculum that are consistent with the mission of the Catholic school.”
In our schools, wellbeing is characterised by positive relationships, positive attitudes, resilience, being able to maximise strengths and high levels of satisfaction and connectedness with learning experiences (e.g. Noble and Wyatt, 2008).
Wellbeing is best promoted in a safe and supportive school.
In a safe and supportive school, the risk from all types of harm is minimised, diversity is valued and all members of the school community feel respected and included and can be confident that they will receive support in the face of any threats to their safety or wellbeing.
(National Safe Schools Framework (NSSF, p.2)
A whole school approach to strengthening child safe communities acknowledges the strong interconnections between student safety, wellbeing and learning. There is a continual focus on promoting anti-bullying and safe behaviours. Student safety and wellbeing are enhanced when students feel connected to their school, have positive and respectful relationships with their peers and teachers, feel confident about their social and emotional skills and are generally satisfied with their learning experiences at school. The wellbeing of all students is at the heart of Catholic Education enabling a learning environment which provides for the spiritual, physical, emotional, cognitive and social growth of its students and staff.
Consideration of wellbeing must take place in ways which support, and are supported by, evidence based whole school processes that improve learning outcomes for all students.
This policy provides an overarching framework for the provision of an environment in which the wellbeing of students can be fostered and safeguarded. It is not prescriptive of particular programs or approaches, rather providing a basis on which the suitability of these can be judged. The system has a range of other policies, named in section 7.1, which will apply in particular circumstances.
The Student Wellbeing Continuum
Wellbeing and pastoral care initiatives in SCS should be seen in the context of a continuum ranging from universal support for all students, to targeted interventions for students with complex social and emotional needs. This is described below.
Proactive holistic strategies and programs which promote resilience, safety and wellbeing and foster positive states of mind are designed for all students. Most students (80-90%) respond, whilst a smaller percentage are ‘at risk’ and require targeted and/or intensive support and intervention. This continuum of service and support is reflected in the following diagram.
Diagram ref: Positive Behaviour for Learning 2018
Wellbeing is central to learning
Learning contributes to wellbeing
Each student has value and inherent dignity
Each student is unique
Each student experiences life uniquely
Students are able to express their views and are provided with opportunities to participate in decisions that affect their lives
Wellbeing is nurtured in the context of community and collaborative relationships are encouraged
Parents and carers have a primary responsibility for the development of their child’s wellbeing
Students can learn, and schools can teach knowledge and skills that support the achievement of wellbeing
Fostering and supporting the wellbeing of students is integral to being a good teacher
Catholic schools seek to positively influence student wellbeing
Catholic schools influence student wellbeing in distinctive and purposeful ways
In the context of Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Sydney, the approach to wellbeing is based upon these beliefs:
The National Safe Schools Framework (NSSF), (2011) is the platform upon which SCS policies, practices and procedures that promote safety and wellbeing are built.
The Framework provides a vision and guiding principles that assist school communities to develop positive school cultures that promote student wellbeing and develop respectful relationships. It assists schools to identify priority areas and measure progress in the development of safe school communities.
The NSSF identifies nine elements to assist Australian schools:
- in planning, implementing and maintaining a safe, supportive and protective learning community that promotes student safety, pastoral care and wellbeing.
- in creating teaching and learning communities where all members of the school community are safe from harassment, aggression, violence and bullying. It also responds to new and emerging challenges for school communities such as ensuring cybersafety.
All SCS and system representatives will use the NSSF support materials including the audit tool which will be a key resource in developing and promoting positive and practical student safety, pastoral care and wellbeing policies.
A suite of excellent support materials is included on the website and specifically tailored resources for students and parents can be found at the Safe Schools Hub.This should not be confused with the Safe Schools Coalition.
All schools will attend to the nine key elements of the NSSF.
Leadership commitment to a safe school
The school leadership team accepts responsibility for the development and maintenance of pastoral care and wellbeing structures that will support all members of the school community. These structures are regularly evaluated and reviewed with updates communicated to the whole school community.
A supportive and connected school culture
The school provides a clear demonstration of respect and support for student diversity through its inclusive actions and structures. Positive, caring and respectful relationships are evident throughout the school community.
Policies and procedures
Whole school, collaboratively developed policies, procedures and structures for supporting safety and wellbeing are clearly understood and followed by all.
Ongoing professional learning is undertaken to ensure that all staff are kept up to date with research and technology related to pastoral care and wellbeing. Staff are continually made aware of both the responsibilities and the limitations of their role.
Positive behaviour management
Fair, consistent, and positive approaches to student learning, support and challenges are understood and implemented by all staff. Students and, where appropriate, their parents are involved in positive behaviour planning.
Engagement, skill development and safe school curriculum
There is a strong focus on the enhancement of student engagement with learning. Relational teaching strategies are utilised and social and emotional skills are taught and modeled across all year levels.
A focus on student wellbeing and student ownership
Strengths based approaches to student learning and a range of opportunities for student ownership, decision making, student voice and leadership are evident.
Early intervention and targeted support
There is acknowledgement that some students struggle, for a variety of reasons, to successfully engage with learning. Effective and respectful processes and procedures exist for the early identification of students and families who require additional support.
Partnerships with families and community
The school works collaboratively with parents, carers and the wider community to extend support to students. The school provides opportunities for education on issues related to student wellbeing and safety. Safe Schools Hub.
These nine elements are based on a combination of best practice, evidence-based literature, and feedback from representatives from educational systems, sectors and educators. Teachers are encouraged to be proactive in building safe and supportive learning communities as well as reactive in responding effectively to situations involving child maltreatment, harassment, aggression, violence and bullying. The nine elements also reflect a view that responsibility for the development and maintenance of a safe and supportive school community requires all involved to have a clear understanding of their rights and responsibilities. Respectful collaboration between all parties and outside agencies which support student pastoral care and wellbeing exists and is nurtured.
Sydney Catholic Schools (SCS) is to:
Provide a coherent policy framework
Provide targeted and effective professional learning opportunities to school and SCS personnel to support this policy
Resource support structures, programs and personnel to promote student wellbeing, pastoral care and resilience
Monitor compliance with this policy through existing protocols, such as Cyclical Review and Strategic Review and Improvement (SRI)
Principals are to:
Implement the NSSF whole school approach for student wellbeing in curriculum and in school procedures
Adopt and implement Archdiocesan policies that are aligned with the NSSF
Observe all legislative requirements and engage as necessary with external agencies in relation to student wellbeing
Engage internal and/or external specialist advice about wellbeing related matters as required
Work in partnership with SCS staff, parents and the school and broader Church community to achieve the purposes of this policy
Ensure that staff have a working knowledge of government and system policies and procedures (see the list at the end of the policy)
Ensure that staff have a clear understanding of their rights and responsibilities with regard to safe and supportive school communities
Respond promptly to any breach of this policy
Teachers are to:
Create and maintain safe and positive learning environments
Model and promote socially responsible values and behaviour
Ensure they have a clear understanding of their rights and responsibilities as spelt out in system documents
Explicitly teach socially acceptable and responsible behaviour which includes social and emotional learning
Follow SCS and whole school policies and procedures to promote student wellbeing, pastoral care and safety
School Counsellors are to:
Familiarise themselves with all aspects of the NSSF, including support documents
Contribute to the implementation of the Framework through their specific knowledge and clinical support
Follow SCS and whole school policies and procedures to enhance student wellbeing, pastoral care and safety
Students are to:
Ensure they have a clear understanding of their rights and responsibilities with regard to a safe and supportive learning environment
Follow school policies, procedures and guidelines in relation to wellbeing and safety
Contribute positively to the development of a safe, supportive and inclusive learning environment
Report all concerns about their own wellbeing and the safety of other students
Parents, families and carers are to:
Ensure children are aware of and understand the requirements of policies and procedures relating to wellbeing, pastoral care and safety
Work in partnership with schools to promote the wellbeing and safety of their children
Be aware of the significant influence they have on their children’s wellbeing
Support SCS and school policies and procedures with respect to wellbeing and safety
It is expected that principals will use this document, and the NSSF itself, as the bases for their planning in the area of student wellbeing and pastoral care. Principals may determine the timing and emphasis of their implementation based on the outcomes of the audit tool.
Student Wellbeing is a student’s level of satisfaction about the quality of their life at school. Optimal (or desirable) wellbeing is characterised by positive feelings and attitude, positive relationships with other students and teachers, resilience, and satisfaction with self and learning experiences at school. (Noble, McGrath, Roffey and Rowling 2008). In Sydney Catholic Schools this definition is underpinned with the values and beliefs of Catholic Education. The wellbeing of all students is at the heart of Catholic Education enabling a learning environment which provides for the spiritual, physical, emotional, cognitive and social wellbeing of its students and staff.
Positive education is the scientific inquiry of the social-emotional skills, relationships, strengths and behaviours that contribute to student wellbeing and resilience in the school context and the school and classroom practices that contribute to positive, safe and supportive teaching and learning communities. (Noble & McGrath 2014).
Pastoral Care refers to the overall climate of care that exists within a school. It includes the policies, processes, programs and practices delivered at school level with the purpose of supporting and enhancing the wellbeing of the students.
It provides a foundation for relationships between students and staff based on mutual respect. In short, Pastoral Care is an authentic expression of the vision and mission of the school.
Pastoral Services refers to a range of services available within and beyond the school which support students and their families, teachers, school leadership teams and SCS staff. These services include counselling, debriefing, case management, education, advocacy and liaison; all of which foster a holistic approach to learning and teaching.
- Anti-Bullying Policy
- Student Management: Suspension, Transfer and Exclusion
- Critical Incidents Management Policy (internal access only)
- Supporting Students with Complex Social and Emotional Needs Policy
- A Catholic Response to Students with Gender Dysphoria Policy (internal access only)
- Child Protection: Responding to Complaints and Allegations Policy
- Authentic Learning Statement (internal access only)
- Enrolment Policy for Systemic Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Sydney
The key resource for this policy is the National Safe Schools Framework. It has a series of supporting resources. Links appear below.
- Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) (2011). National Safe Schools Framework. MCEECDYA
- The Framework
- Support Materials
- Student Wellbeing Hub
Another key resource for this policy is the:
Government mandatory policies and procedures
The current educational and legislative context within which schools operate places mandatory requirements upon our organisations which cannot be ignored. Schools will continue to systematically respond to these requirements.
- Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998(NSW)
- Disability Discrimination 1992 (Cth)
- Disability Standards for Education (2005) and Guidance Notes (2005), revised 2012.
- Australian Education Act 2013(Cth)
- NSW Government, Keep Them Safe Online Mandatory Reporting Guide (2013)
- National Professional Standards for Teachers (2011). Particularly Standard 4. Create and Maintain Supportive and Safe Learning Environments, p.14
- The Archbishop’s Charter for Catholic Schools (2012)
- Catholic Social Teaching. A Framework for Faith in Action (2012)
- Educating today and tomorrow: A renewing passion. Congregation for Catholic Education (2014)
- Noble, T. and Wyatt, T. (2008). Scoping Study into Approaches to Student Wellbeing: Final Report. Australian Catholic University and Erebus International
- Noble, T., McGrath, H., Roffey, S., & Rowling, L. (2008). A scoping study on student wellbeing. Canberra, ACT, Australia: Department of Education, Employment & Workplace Relations
Last modified: Aug 2018
This policy supersedes all previous policies relating to matters contained therein. In so much as any aspect of this policy may appear to be in conflict with another Archdiocesan system or school-based policy, then precedence is to be given to this policy.
Review by: June 2018
The safety and wellbeing of students is of such significance that the efficacy of this policy will be continuously monitored for its appropriateness. Changing laws, legal precedents and experience may all serve as triggers for immediate review.
Approved by Leadership Team: 5 July 2018
Endorsed by SACS Board: 15 Aug 2018
Approved by Executive Director of Sydney Catholic Schools: 19 September 2018
Commencement Date: March 2015 (reviewed 2018)