Wellbeing in schools: Examining the policy–practice nexus

Mary Ann Powell, Anne Graham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-231
Number of pages18
JournalAustralian Educational Researcher
Issue number2
Early online date27 Jan 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2017


  • student wellbeing
  • social and emotional wellbeing
  • schools
  • education policy
  • pastoral care


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