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education.vic.gov.au

Student Engagement

Policy last updated

12 March 2021

Scope

  • Schools

Contact

Wellbeing Health and Engagement Division There are multiple contacts for this policy. Refer to Contacts section in the policy for details.


Date:
January 2020

Policy

Policy

The purpose of this policy is to assist schools to create an effective local student engagement policy which provides the basis on which schools develop and maintain safe, supportive and inclusive school environments.   

Summary

  • Every government school must have a local student engagement policy. 
  • The principal must develop the policy in consultation with the school community and must have regard to the rights and responsibilities of students, parents and staff in developing the policy.
  • The policy must include information required by the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority Minimum Standards.
  • The student engagement policy includes:
    • details in relation to monitoring daily attendance of each student and strategies to promote and improve attendance
    • policies and procedures that ensure that the care, safety and welfare of students is in accordance with any applicable State and Commonwealth law (including student welfare and bullying, cyberbullying and harassment)
    • policies relating to the discipline of students that are based on principles of procedural fairness and include an explicit statement that corporal punishment is not permitted
  • A Student Wellbeing and Engagement Policy Template is available on the School Policy Templates Portal (staff login required).
  • Schools should refer to the Student Engagement Guidance (in the Guidance tab) for a detailed explanation of best practice steps when developing their student engagement policy.

Details

Schools develop local student engagement policies to document how they:

  • create and maintain a positive and engaging school culture
  • create and maintain environments that are safe and supportive
  • value diversity and promote pro-social behaviour
  • promote school attendance
  • adopt a staged approach to promote positive behaviours 
  • apply disciplinary measures

A principal of a government school must develop a policy for student engagement for the students at the school including in relation to student behaviour.

The principal must develop the policy in consultation with the school community and have regard to the rights and responsibilities of students, parents and staff in developing the policy.

Student engagement policies articulate the expectations and aspirations of the school community in relation to student engagement including strategies to address bullying, school attendance and behaviour.  The school-based policy should:

  • create and maintain a positive and engaging school culture
  • create and maintain environments that are safe and supportive
  • value diversity and promote pro-social behaviour
  • promote school attendance
  • adopt a staged approach to promote positive behaviours 
  • advise how disciplinary measures may be applied, and
  • detail how and when a school implements a staged response to concerning student behaviour

The Education and Training Reform Act 2006 (Vic) prohibits the use of corporal punishment in any Victorian government school.

School-based policy requirements

A school’s student engagement policy must include:

  • a school profile statement
  • a statement outlining the school values, philosophy and vision
  • the engagement strategies to be used across the school, including a reference to universal, targeted and individual strategies
  • how a school will identify students in need of support
  • student rights and responsibilities
  • behavioural expectations and guidance for when these expectations are not met, which includes details of a staged response and appropriate supports
  • how the school will engage with families
  • the process to evaluate and update the policy

Using your school’s student engagement policy

The policy should be a foundation document that supports or links with other school plans such as school-wide improvement strategies.

It can also be a helpful reference when tailoring individual student-based interventions, or to aid effective communication about the rights and responsibilities for all school community members when working with a student who is not meeting the behavioural expectations.

An engagement policy should be a living document that is reviewed and refreshed in response to progress and changing school context. It is recommended that the policy is reviewed every 2 to 3 years.

To ensure that a school community is familiar with and committed to the policy it can be promoted by:

  • making it a prominent feature on the school website
  • highlighting excerpts on posters to remind people of their shared commitment to a safe and supportive school
  • giving copies to parents when they enrol their children
  • student focus groups and sharing the policy with students

Legal requirements

The policy must meet the requirements of the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority (VRQA) Minimum Standards including:

  • details in relation to monitoring the daily attendance of each student enrolled at the school
  • policies and procedures that ensure that the care, safety and welfare of students is in accordance with any applicable State and Commonwealth law (including student welfare and bullying, cyberbullying and harassment)
  • policies relating to the discipline of students that are based on principles of procedural fairness and include an explicit statement that corporal punishment is not permitted

For more information refer to the VRQA Guidelines to the Minimum Standards and Requirements for School Registration.

Developing a policy can support schools to address their legal obligations under relevant legislation including:

  • the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic) which prohibits discrimination on the basis of various protected attributes (characteristics)
  • the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 (Vic) which requires public authorities, including government schools and their employees, to act compatibly with human rights and to consider human rights when making decisions and delivering services. 
    • Charter decisions in schools include decisions around enrolment, attendance, responding to behaviour concerns (including preventing the escalation of behaviours), the making of adjustments for students with disabilities, preventing and responding to bullying, use of restrictive practices including restraint, and decisions to suspend or expel a student.
    • rights protected by the Charter include the protection of families and children (including promoting the best interests of the child), the right to equality, and cultural and religious rights.
  • the Disability Standards for Education 2005 (Cth) which clarify and make more explicit the obligations on schools and the rights of students under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth)
  • the Education and Training Reform Act 2006 (Vic) which states that all Victorians, irrespective of the education and training institution they attend, where they live or their social or economic status, should have access to a high quality education that
    • realises their learning potential and maximises their education
    • training achievement and promotes enthusiasm for lifelong learning
  • allowing parents to take an active part in their child's education and training

Resources on promoting student engagement

For further support and guidance on strategies and programs to enhance student engagement and identify students at risk of disengaging, refer to the Resources tab.  

Contacts

For advice and support in managing issues relating to student engagement, contact your regional office.

Relevant legislation

Contact

Wellbeing Health and Engagement Division There are multiple contacts for this policy. Refer to Contacts section in the policy for details.


Guidance

Guidance for Schools — Developing a Student engagement policy 

This guidance is designed to give schools best practice steps in developing their student engagement policy.

It contains the following chapters:

  • Steps
  • What to include
  • Questions to consider
  • Who is involved
  • Using school data

Steps

Steps

This is a good practice process for creating a high quality student engagement policy. Each step should be completed in partnership with the school community, including students.

  1. Analyse existing data to identify strengths and areas for improvement.
  2. Develop evidence based strategies to address engagement.
  3. Develop an implementation plan and monitoring and evaluation processes.
  4. Implement new strategies if required (including monitoring and evaluation).
  5. Review success of strategies and progress towards vision.


What to include

What to include

A high quality student engagement policy will include the below information. Schools should also refer to the Student Wellbeing and Engagement Policy template on the School Policy Templates Portal (staff login required) for further detail and examples.

A description of the school profile

To help members of the school community understand the needs of the school, the school profile statement should detail the diversity of the student population and school community, in general terms.

Including school data and referencing community aspirations for the school can help to identify strengths and areas for improvement.

School values, philosophy and vision

The purpose of this section is to highlight your school’s values, philosophy and vision. It should act as a summary of your school’s Statement of Values and help to ensure that the values adopted by your school are integrated into this policy.

Engagement strategies

A policy should outline a range of evidence-based strategies that a school will use to positively engage students in learning and intervene early when problems arise.

Research shows that engagement strategies work best when they extend beyond wellbeing and disciplinary approaches. You may like to also reference teaching, learning and assessment strategies, with a focus on personalised learning and the use of technology.

Engagement strategies can be categorised and presented in the policy as:

  • universal (school-wide) engagement strategies that create safe, inclusive and empowering environments that foster an enthusiasm for learning and support student wellbeing
  • targeted (population-specific) engagement strategies that meet the varied needs of vulnerable cohorts, including both prevention and intervention strategies
  • individual (student-specific) engagement strategies for students at risk, including strategies to identify and respond to individual student circumstances when regular attendance is not consistent or positive behaviours are not demonstrated

In addition to universal strategies, schools still need processes in place to identify and intervene early when an individual or group of students are at risk of disengaging.

Identifying students in need of support

This section of the policy should describe the school’s commitment to providing support and enhancing student wellbeing. The information and tools that the school uses to identify students who need support should be listed in this section of the policy.

The Student Wellbeing and Engagement policy template on the School Policy Template Portal provides examples of information and tools to include in this section of the policy.

Student rights and responsibilities

This section of the policy must describe student rights and responsibilities, with the wording being appropriate to a primary or a secondary school setting.

The Student Wellbeing and Engagement Policy template provides examples of information to include in this section of the policy.

Behaviour expectations and responses to challenging behaviour

An engagement policy must detail the expectations for behaviour and the consequences and actions to be taken when these are not met. The policy will be most effective when the school and the school community have shared expectations. These actions should include support measures and disciplinary measures.

Disciplinary measures may be used as part of a staged response to inappropriate behaviour in combination with other engagement and support strategies to ensure that factors that may have contributed to the student’s behaviour are identified and addressed.

Disciplinary measures should retain the dignity of the student. Measures that exclude a student from learning should be avoided where possible.

Engaging with families

This section of the policy should include a statement regarding the school’s approach to engaging with families and details of how the school will work to create successful partnerships with parents and carers.

The Student Wellbeing and Engagement policy template provides examples of information to include in this section of the policy.

The process to evaluate and update the policy

An engagement policy should be treated as a living document.

It is recommended that the policy is reviewed every 1 to 2 years.

Giving staff members the role of leading the evaluation of the policy can be effective.

Schools should report to their community on the effectiveness of the policy. This may occur in periodical communications such as the school annual report. Reporting to the community can help to ensure that the policy continues to reflect the school community’s expectations and aspirations.


Questions to consider

Questions to consider

When creating or reviewing your policy, you should consider the following:

  • do school leadership and staff promote a culture of respect, fairness and equality, and foster respectful relationships?
  • is the school environment inclusive and empowering, valuing the positive contributions of students and creating a sense of belonging and connectedness that are conducive to positive behaviours and effective engagement in learning?
  • are there multiple opportunities for students to take responsibility and be involved in decision-making?
  • are there school-wide and classroom processes to identify vulnerable students and those at risk of disengagement from school?
  • are there school-wide and classroom processes for ongoing collection and use of data for decision-making?
  • is there social/emotional and educational support for at risk and vulnerable students?
  • are the school-wide and classroom expectations and consequences for problem behaviour clear?
  • are there multiple opportunities for students to take responsibility and be involved in decision-making?
  • has the creation of physical environments that are conducive to positive behaviours and effective engagement in learning been considered?
  • are the strategies backed by a solid evidence base?


Who is involved?

Who is involved?

An engagement policy is best developed with input from representatives from all areas of the school community, including:

  • school principals, as they have the primary responsibility to develop, communicate, implement and monitor the policy
  • school community, which has a key role in ensuring the policy reflects shared expectations and that the policy is well communicated and monitored, and its effectiveness evaluated. As part of the school community, the school council should also be consulted and its views should be taken into account when you draft a student engagement policy.
  • students, whose voice (e.g. through Student Representative Councils) can assist in building relationships, shared expectations and supporting policy implementation.  Research shows that when students are engaged in setting their own behavioural expectations they are much more likely to commit to them. This also helps to build an inclusive and respectful school culture, where all members of the school community feel empowered to contribute to influencing the culture and practice.
  • parents and the broader community play a vital role in supporting successful learning experiences and outcomes for our children. This framework is about schools engaging with parents and communities to work together to maximise student engagement and learning outcomes

A process which elicits meaningful contributions from across the school community reflects the shared responsibility for student engagement and can be a powerful tool to build a shared commitment to the Student Engagement Policy.

“We now know that educators will not greatly improve a child’s academic progress unless they find ways of getting the school and home into harmony.” — Hedley Beare, VICCSO online, 2013.


Using school data

Using school data

Using data about a school to inform the student engagement policy is important. Schools can draw on a variety of data sources to gain an understanding of the diversity of the school community and the engagement and wellbeing needs of students.

Before developing or reviewing an engagement policy it would be helpful for schools to gather data from:


Resources

Resources 

General resources on student engagement

Fact sheets

Programs to support student engagement

Staying in Education (SIE) dashboard

The SIE dashboard is an interactive online dashboard, developed to assist schools to identify students in Years 7 to 10 who are at risk of disengaging from school and leaving school early.

This early identification provides school wellbeing teams with the opportunity to implement a range of interventions and supports to ensure vulnerable young people maintain their engagement and connection with education before the critical transition to senior secondary years.

Schools can access the SIE dashboard via the link on the Panorama Home Page (in the right-hand menu box). A fact sheet, FAQs and implementation guidelines ('Return to School — Approaches to Engagement') are available from the SIE dashboard page for further information.

For support in using the SIE dashboard, schools can contact Data Coaches via school.performance.data@education.vic.gov.au

Useful websites

Students at Risk Tool


Reviewed 09 March 2020