Head of House – Kuring-gai

Head of House – Kuring-gai

Education involves more than just the acquisition of knowledge, teachers also need to make qualified judgements about social and emotional development.

This year, the Pastoral Team at Loreto Normanhurst have been looking to further develop and implement programs that promote the social and emotional development of our students in order to enhance their learning capacity.

2018 marks the 10-year anniversary of the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians (MCEETYA 2008). The goals outlined are:

Goal 1:       Australian schooling promotes equity and excellence.

Goal 2:       All young Australians become – successful learners; confident and creative individuals; and active and informed citizens.

The MCEETYA outlines the essential role schools play in preparing our children to become knowledgeable, responsible adults who:

  • have a sense of self-worth, self-awareness and personal identity that enables them to manage their emotional, mental, spiritual and physical wellbeing;
  • relate well to others and form and maintain healthy relationships;
  • embrace opportunities, make rational and informed decisions about their own lives and accept responsibility for their own actions;
  • develop personal values and attributes such as honesty, resilience, empathy and respect for others; and
  • are well prepared for their potential life roles as family, community and workforce members.

The Australian Curriculum has pinpointed areas in which students can develop personal and social capabilities and the Collaborative for Social, Emotional, and Academic Learning (CASEL) has identified that, if we expect students to be ready for life after school, classroom instruction must include the following social and emotional skills:

  • Self-awareness
  • Social awareness
  • Responsible decision-making
  • Self-management
  • Relationship skills

Please click here for more detail about social and emotional skills.

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is the process through which students acquire the knowledge and skills to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, empathise with others, cultivate positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. It provides a foundation for safe and positive learning, and teaches students resilience and life skills ultimately enabling the successful management of life tasks.

Resilience and wellbeing are also influenced by ‘risk factors’ and ‘protective factors’ which interrelate in complex ways. Internal factors, those pertinent to individual students, may be modified in adolescents through effective social emotional learning programs such as those that have been adopted at Loreto.

Studies have shown that students who lack social-emotional competencies witness a decreasing connection with school, which negatively affects their academic performance, their ability to effectively work with others, their resilience and their health (Durlak et al., 2011). The Victorian Department of Education and Training emphasises the importance of SEL skills as students move through their schooling – helping them manage stress, develop intrinsic motivation and plan productively for the future (Education.vic.gov.au, 2018). Students who participate in evidence-based SEL programs showed improvement in academic outcomes and classroom behaviour in addition to an increased ability to manage stress and depression, and better attitudes about themselves, others and school.

An ideal SEL structure provides for social and emotional learning opportunities not simply in the classroom, but also in the broader school, the home and broader community. In secondary schools, pastoral staff are the most commonly cited teachers who have the responsibility for creating a sense of wellbeing – they are perceived as the adults who listen to the students and show a genuine interest. In terms of promoting good wellbeing, listening is the most important trait a teacher can exhibit. It signals respect to the students; they feel they are being heard.

It is the “small, repeated actions [of teachers] to connect with and relate to students [that] seem to have the greatest impact.”

Teachers facilitate student wellbeing in the following key ways:

  • Caring for students holistically – communicating genuine concern and interest and empathy.
  • Supporting and encouraging students – offering constructive criticism and assisting with goal-setting.
  • Conversing with and listening to students – about everyday things.
  • Treating students as individuals – with a sense of fairness and equity.
  • Mentoring – actively guiding students in making good decisions, learning from their mistakes, motivating and advising them on how to behave respectfully.
  • Teaching so that learning is enjoyable – making  students feel engaged and challenged within a safe and encouraging environment where mistakes are opportunities for learning.

Simple everyday interactions between students and their teachers can impact student wellbeing and the ability of teachers to create positive and supportive relationships with their students is a key protective factor for youth.

Authentic conversation is a fundamental means through which recognition can occur and is an essential element to building student wellbeing. In the context of Loreto Normanhurst, there are structures already in place to build the capacity for strong relationships, particularly through one-on-one student-tutor and student-advisor conversations. We encourage all students and their families to cultivate these connections and to continually build these relationships.









Johnson, B. (2008) Teacher–student relationships which promote resilience at school: a micro-level analysis of students’ views, British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 36:4, 385-398, https://doi.org/10.1080/03069880802364528


Mrs Beth Nairn

Head of Kuring-gai House