What an Engagement Policy Should Include

A high quality student engagement policy will include:

  • a description of the school profile
  • a statement outlining the school values, philosophy and vision
  • the engagement strategies to be used across the school, including reference to universal (school-wide), targeted (population-specific) and individual (student-specific) strategies
  • behavioural expectations and the consequences for when these expectations are not met
  • the process to evaluate and update the policy
  • a statement that corporal punishment is not permitted at the school.

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.

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 policy could include a global statement about the philosophy of the school before moving on to more specific statements relating to the school community. Two examples of global statements are:

  • every member of the school community has a right to fully participate in an educational environment that is safe, supportive and inclusive
  • everyone deserves to be treated with respect and dignity.

Information about a school’s values, philosophy and vision will set the tone and direction of the policy. This information should include:

  • any engagement and wellbeing goals and targets related to school improvement strategies and actions identified through the school’s strategic and annual implementation planning process
  • a specific statement outlining the school’s commitment to addressing bullying, including cyberbullying
  • a statement about the rights and responsibilities of all students, teachers and parents/carers within the school community.

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

The Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority’s Minimum Standards for School Registration requires that each school has a policy that explicitly states that corporal punishment is not permitted at the school. This should be written explicitly into a school's Student Engagement Policy.

Principles for health and wellbeing

A school may also wish to include reference to the principles for health and wellbeing. The principles are a reminder of good practice when working with children and young people and are intended to promote, nurture and support the health and wellbeing of Victorian children and young people.

Principle 1 – Maximise access and inclusion

Quality education and support for all, with extra effort directed to ensuring education and support is accessible and inclusive to the most vulnerable and disadvantaged.

Principle 2 – Focus on outcomes

A focus on health, learning, development and wellbeing outcomes is upheld when designing, delivering, evaluating and improving education and support services.

Principle 3 – Evidence-informed and reflective practice

Policy and practice is informed by current and relevant evidence, known to be effective in improving outcomes. Research and evaluation is undertaken to grow the evidence base and enable effective and reflective practice.

Principle 4 –Holistic approach

Educators and support staff work collaboratively and professionals use multidisciplinary approaches and focus on the range of goals, aspirations and needs of children, young people and families.

Principle 5 – Person-centred and family sensitive practice

Successful schools see people in the context of their families and environment, and seek to support and empower people to lead and sustain healthy lives.

Principle 6 – Partnerships with families and communities

Ensuring children and young people have good health and wellbeing is the collective responsibility of families, schools, the community and government; requiring shared commitment and action.

Principle 7 – Cultural competence

To effectively meet the needs of all children, young people, requires an ability to understand and effectively communicate with people across cultures and recognise one’s own world view.

Principle 8 – Commitment to excellence

Education providers and services have high expectations for those they work with, and continually assess their own work practices to find opportunities for improvement.

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.  Schools 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.

Remaining engaged in learning and connected with school is difficult for some children and young people. Whilst universal strategies may be all that is required to ensure some students remain enthusiastic about learning, schools still need processes in place to identify and intervene early when a cohort of students or an individual student is at risk of disengaging.

Behavioural expectations and responses to challenging behaviour

Am engagement policy should detail the shared school community expectations for behaviour and the consequences and sctions to be taken when these are not met. These actions should include both support measures and disciplinary measures.

Disciplinary measures should be considered as part of a staged response to challenging behaviour and used in combination with other engagement and support strategies to address the range of factors that may have contributed to the student's behaviour. For more information, see: Responding to challenging behaviour

Disciplinary measures should retain the dignity of the student and measures that exclude a student from learning should be avoided where possible. By applying fair and consistent discipline policies that are collectively agreed on and consistently enforced the school can increase the likelihood that student connection to the school is maintained. For more information on disciplinary measures including suspension and expulsion procedures, see: Discipline

Evaluating and updating the policy

An engagement policy should be treated as a living document.

Regular monitoring of a school’s progress and evaluation of the effectiveness of the engagement strategies will help guide adjustments where needed. 

This will also help ensure the policy reflects emerging issues and takes account of new data about a school’s performance. For example, schools may like to adapt their policy to include expectations around the use of contemporary forms of communication.

The review of the policy should be done in conjunction with the school's annual self-evaluation undertaken as part of the school accountability framework.

Allocating one or more staff members the role of leading the monitoring and evaluation and promoting the policy can be effective.

To ensure that the policy continues to reflect the school community’s expectations and aspirations schools should report on its effectiveness to their community.

More information and support

Schools with questions about developing and updating an engagement policy can:

  • talk to other schools in their networks about their approaches to student engagement and successful strategies they have tried.
  • talk to their regional office. See: Regions
  • discuss any concerns about the wellbeing and engagement of an individual or cohort of students with a student support service officer or other student wellbeing professional.