The Australian Educational Researcher

, Volume 44, Issue 2, pp 213–231 | Cite as

Wellbeing in schools: Examining the policy–practice nexus

  • Mary Ann PowellEmail author
  • Anne Graham


National concern regarding the social and emotional wellbeing of children and young people is now strongly reflected in a wide range of Australian policy initiatives. A considerable number of these target schools and point firmly to the role education is perceived to play in promoting student wellbeing. Given that wellbeing can be difficult to define and complex to measure, closer attention needs to be paid to whether and how the current wellbeing policy environment provides conceptual clarity and intelligible implementation pathways. This article explores some of the current policy ambiguity by drawing on findings from a large-scale, mixed methods study exploring student wellbeing at school. These findings emerged from an extensive analysis of wellbeing-related policy, together with policy-related data from in-depth interviews with teachers and principals. They suggest that approaches to supporting student wellbeing are constrained by an ad hoc policy environment characterised by competing discourses and a consequential lack of clarity regarding how wellbeing is understood and best facilitated within the context of schools. The implications of these findings are discussed with particular attention to the interface between policy and practice with regard to student wellbeing in schools in Australia.


Student wellbeing Social and emotional wellbeing Schools Education policy Pastoral care 



This work was supported by the Australian Research Council under Grant LP110200656.


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Copyright information

© The Australian Association for Research in Education, Inc. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Children & Young PeopleSouthern Cross UniversityLismoreAustralia

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