Strategies to improve student engagement


The new Policy and Advisory Library (PAL) is now available. This page will be redirected to PAL from the start of Term 3. Make sure to update your bookmarks to the new PAL site.

This page includes an overview of engagement strategies to use at your school.

Whole-school strategies

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  • Manage student behaviour includes information on how to respond to challenging behaviour.
  • School-wide Positive Behaviour Support is an evidence-based framework for preventing and responding to student behaviour. It has several tiers that cover school-wide, individual and targeted interventions.
  • Restorative practice is an approach to dealing with offending behaviour that focused on offenders taking responsibility for their behaviour and taking action to repair the harm they caused.


  • Bully Stoppers includes resources for bullying prevention.
  • The Student Wellbeing Hub includes the National Safe Schools Framework. This is a set of guiding principles for safe and supportive school communities.

Health and wellbeing

Student mentoring

The Student mentoring program offers grants to promote school connectedness, engagement and aspirations for disadvantaged children and young people.

Individual student strategies

Student support groups

A student support group can help in developing an understanding of the student and identifying their learning, social, emotional, behaviour and environmental needs and the support or resources the student requires for improvement.

Student support group meetings should involve:

  • the student
  • parents, guardians or carers
  • school principal (or delegate)
  • the student’s main classroom teacher, form/home-room teacher or the year level coordinator
  • professionals who have been supporting the student or their family, for example the student welfare coordinator, psychologist, youth worker etc
  • a Koorie engagement support officer if the student is Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander
  • an advocate/support person (if desired by parents, who must not be acting for fee or reward).

The student support group aims to:

  • develop an understanding of the student
  • identify the student’s learning, social, emotional, behavioural and environmental needs, and the support or resources the student requires for improvement
  • involve key specialist learning and wellbeing support staff, for example the literacy coach, student welfare coordinator, primary welfare officer, reading recovery teacher and/or school psychologist.

Individual education plan

The purpose of an individual education plan is to develop and monitor an appropriate holistic program of assistance and support for the student.

It should include actions such as:

  • determining agreed expectations
  • establishing personal contact
  • increasing supervision of the student
  • providing personal support and counselling for the student
  • referring the student to support agencies
  • making return-to-school arrangements and offering support.

Individual education plans may be a suitable intervention to improve attendance if issues are identified with a student’s education level, such as their literacy or numeracy levels, or if poor engagement in learning is identified as contributing to the student’s attendance pattern.

All government schools must develop an individual education plan for each Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student. This is done in partnership between teachers, student, parent or caregiver and the Koorie engagement support officer.

The out-of-home-care partnering agreement also commits to an educational needs assessment for all students in out-of-home care. See: individual education plans for students in out-of-home care.

Behaviour support plan

A behaviour support plan is a document that addresses inappropriate behaviour of a student, and outlines strategies to improve their behaviour.

Attendance improvement plan and return to school plan

Use an attendance improvement plan if a student has attendance issues.

Use a return to school plan to help students reintegrate after a prolonged absence.

These plans may be appropriate for students who are:

  • involved in the youth justice system
  • experiencing, or who have experienced a period of homelessness
  • experiencing mental or physical illnesses (return to school plans are important for this cohort if they have experienced prolonged absence from school).

Any support services the student is accessing or has been referred to (such as a youth worker or Koorie engagement support officer) should be consulted and the plan should outline the parties to be involved and their key responsibilities.

Access attendance and enrolment templates.

Re-engagement programs

Re-engagement programs​ run outside mainstream school environments. They support children and young people who are disengaged or have been identified as at risk of disengaging from school.

Health and wellbeing

  • The School Focused Youth Service is for at risk young people who need early intervention strategies to assist with their learning, development, health and wellbeing.
  • ChildFIRST​: School staff should make a referral to Child FIRST where school staff have concerns about a child’s wellbeing but do not believe the child is in need of protection.

Community agencies

Some organisations you may wish to consider include:

  • Berry Street works with, young people and families with complex needs on issues related to violence, neglect, abuse, trauma and poverty.
  • Anglicare works with families and communities and provides a range of services including emergency food and crisis accommodation, and builds capacity for sustainable living through programs like foster care, financial counselling, parent education and group work.
  • Brotherhood of St Laurence works to alleviate and prevent poverty and can provide support to children, young people, adults and families.
  • Smith Family is a children's charity helping disadvantaged Australian children to get the most out of their education, so they can create better futures for themselves.
  • Carers Victoria is an advocate for carers and young carers who provide care and support to family members and friends who have a disability, mental illness, chronic condition, terminal illness or who are frail and aged.
  • Carers Victoria's Carers IDaims to improve awareness about carers and provides an easy referral process to link identified carers to support services.

You can also contact your closest regional office or local council for help locating the right service.

Students with additional needs

Team based support (Team Around the Learner)

Team Around the Learner is an approach that schools can use to ensure there is a whole school understanding of how to establish an effective team that carefully considers the needs of the student to plan, implement and monitor appropriate supports and interventions.


See support for students with additional needs for available programs from the Department to support students with a disability.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students

Each regional office has Koorie education coordinators and Koorie engagement support officers who can provide advice in supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

English as an additional language

  • Schools have access to regional EAL program officers. They provide EAL advice and professional learning opportunities for teachers in government schools. Contact your closest regional office.
  • Interpreting and translating services are also available free (within guidelines) to government schools.

Family trauma and violence

Use the child development and trauma specialist practice resource. It aims to assist in understanding typical developmental pathways of children and recognise indicators of trauma at different ages and stages.

Child protection - mandatory reporting

It is important you're aware of the signs of child abuse and your mandatory reporting obligations.

All staff must complete a mandatory reporting eLearning module each year to ensure training is consistent across all schools.

To access the training, see: ELMO LearningeLearn:

  • Username: deecd
  • Password: employee

Mental health

  • Consider strategies such as flexible learning timetables, regular student support group meetings and return to school plans if there are prolonged absences.
  • Consider referring the student to one of the available school or network support services such as the school welfare coordinator or a relevant student support services officer.
  • Child and youth mental health services offers a specialist child and adolescent mental health services for children and adolescents up to the age of 18 years with serious emotional disturbance.

Headspace School Support Program

Headspace School Support Program works closely with principals, school wellbeing staff, teachers, allied health professionals and other key stakeholders to appropriately plan for and respond to incidents of suicide or attempted suicide.

Gender and sexually diverse students

The Safe Schools program helps schools foster a safe environment that is supportive and inclusive of LGBTI students.

Students in out-of-home care

Out-of-home care is a living arrangement for children and young people who cannot live in their family home.


Homelessness guidelines for Victorian schools is a resource to help improve the outcomes of children and young people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Who can help

  • Primary welfare officers promote a whole school approach to health and wellbeing within the school community.
  • School nurses: Primary school nurses visit schools throughout the year to provide children with health assessments. Secondary school nurses aim to reduce risk to young people and promote better health in the wider community.
  • Student welfare coordinators are in all government secondary schools. They can assist with issues such as school non-attendance, drug use, bullying and depression.