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