School-wide positive behaviour support

Promoting wellbeing at school can substantially improve social and emotional outcomes of young people.

School-wide positive behaviour support (SWPBS) is a whole-school framework which provides school professionals with an approach to promote improved behaviour at their school.

SWPBS has been developed from evidence and data, demonstrating the most effective ways to prevent and respond to problem behaviour at school. Research has shown that SWPBS is successful in reducing problem behaviour, improving school culture, and increasing academic performance.


The key attributes of SWPBS include preventive activities, data-based decision making, and a problem solving orientation. SWPBS is a technology with four core, defining features:

  • outcomes: supporting social competence and academic achievement
  • systems: supporting staff behaviour
  • data: supporting decision-making
  • practices: supporting student behaviour.

Introduction to School-Wide Positive Behaviour Support (docx - 248.63kb)

Tiered intervention framework

SWPBS uses a tiered intervention framework which invests in:

  • primary prevention (tier 1): school and classroom-wide systems for all students, staff and settings (approximately 80% of students)
  • secondary prevention (tier 2): specialised group systems for students with at-risk behaviour (approximately 15% of students)
  • tertiary prevention (tier 3): specialised, individualised systems for students with high-risk behaviour (approximately 5% of students)

School principals play a pivotal role in adopting, implementing and sustaining SWPBS. Principal support such as agreeing with SWPBS principles, allowing teacher release time for training and team meetings and allocating resources for implementation are significant towards the sustainability of SWPBS.

Changing the climate conference 2019

The Department is hosting a conference for teachers, school leaders, school support services (SSS) and early childhood educators to build their skills and to improve the delivery and sustainability of positive climates for learning.

The conference will be held on 14 and 15 March 2019, at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre. Online registration is now open.  

At the event, selected national and international speakers will collaborate in discussion.

List of speakers

Susan Barrett, USA

Susan serves as an Implementer Partner with the U.S. National Technical Assistance Centre on Positive Behavioural Interventions and Supports (PBIS). She assists with large-scale implementation of PBIS, partners with researchers to evaluate the impact of PBIS on students, school staff and school communities and serves on the Association of Positive Behaviour Supports Board of Directors. She also co-leads the development of the Interconnected Systems Framework, a mental health and PBIS expansion effort.

Chrissie Butler, New Zealand

Chrissie is a consultant and mentor in inclusive design and education practice for CORE Education. She works alongside schools, government departments and NGOs building understanding of inclusive ways of working and learning together. She has a particular interest in Universal Design for Learning, the inclusive design of flexible learning spaces and culturally responsive practices. Her background is in primary teaching, blind and low vision education, e-learning and inclusion.

Dr Barbara Ehren, USA

Barbara was a professor at the University of Central Florida where she directed a doctoral program on language and literacy for learners who struggle. She is a fellow and honouree of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, and a Board Certified Specialist in Child Language. She has served in many capacities in schools: as a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP), classroom teacher and administrator. She has broad experiences in research, writing and professional development around educational innovations including MTSS, school-wide literacy initiatives, and new roles of SLPs in schools. She has worked with many educational agencies in the U.S. and abroad.

Dr Rachel Freeman, USA

Rachel is the Director of State Initiatives for the Institute on Community Integration at the University of Minnesota. She has been providing technical assistance in school-wide positive behavioural interventions and supports for over 20 years. She conducts research and provides technical assistance to teams implementing positive behaviour support, interagency collaboration, and other evidence-based practices in education, disability organisations, juvenile justice, and mental health. Rachel has served as a member of the Board of Directors for the Association for Positive Behaviour Support for over 13 years and served as President for three years.

Dr Brian Gaunt, USA

University of South Florida. Brian is a school psychologist who consults with local and state education agencies in the U.S. in support of implementing tiered service delivery practices including response to intervention, positive behaviour interventions and supports, and multi-tiered systems of support. Additionally, he teaches graduate courses on systems change, implementation science, effective learning strategies and data-based instructional design.


Steve Goodman, USA

Steve has over 35 years in the field of education and is the director of Michigan’s Integrated Behaviour and Learning Support Initiative, a partner with the National Centre on Positive Behavioural Interventions and Supports, and the State Implementation and Scaling-up of Evidence-based Practices Centre. Steve is a senior advisor to the National Centre on Intensive Intervention and consultant to the National Centre on Improving Literacy. He serves on Michigan’s Literacy Commission and is past president of the Association for Positive Behaviour Support.

Dr. Mary Louise Hemmeter, USA

Professor of Special Education at Vanderbilt University. Her research focuses on effective instruction, supporting social emotional development and addressing challenging behaviour, and coaching teachers. She has been a PI or Co-PI on numerous projects funded by the US Departments of Education and Health and Human Services. Through her work on the National Centre on the Social Emotional Foundations for Early Learning and funded research projects, she was involved in the development of the Pyramid Model for Supporting Social Emotional Competence in Young Children and a model for coaching teachers to implement effective practices known as Practice Based Coaching. She is currently leading projects focused on examining the efficacy of the Pyramid Model in infant toddler, pre-k and kindergarten settings. She is a co-author on the Connect4Learning Pre-K Curriculum. She was a co-editor of the Journal of Early Intervention and President of the Council for Exceptional Children’s Division for Early Childhood. She received the Mary McEvoy Service to the Field Award and Merle B, Karnes Service to the Division Award from the Division for Early Childhood of the Council for Exceptional Children.

Professor Don Kincaid, USA

Don is Director or Co-Director of a number of projects including the Florida Positive Behaviour Intervention and Support Project, the University of South Florida’s subcontract with the Centre for Positive Behavioural Interventions and Supports, an OSEP-funded grant, the Florida Centre for Inclusive Communities, Florida’s School Climate Transformation grant, and the Florida AWARE Project. All of these projects integrate school-based positive behaviour interventions and support within a multi-tiered systems framework. Don coordinates systems change efforts at a local, state and national level to support the implementation of evidence-based practices.

Professor Tim Lewis, USA

Tim has been involved in special education for 30 years. He has taught students with emotional and behavioural disorders in high school, elementary, and self-contained psychiatric settings. At present, he is Professor of Special Education at the University of Missouri. Dr Lewis has been involved with developing school-wide systems of behavioural support for over 20 years. He has worked directly with school teams around the world and is a frequent contributor to the professional literature examining various aspects of Positive Behaviour Support. Dr. Lewis directs the University of Missouri Centre for School-wide Positive Behavior Support, is Co-Director of the national OSEP Center for Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports and former Co-Director of the Center for Adolescent Research in Schools.

Dr Shiralee Poed, Australia

Shiralee is a Senior Lecturer at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education and the co-chair of Positive Behaviour Interventions and Supports Australia. Shiralee has worked as a teacher and leader in Australian schools, and she has lead the implementation of School-Wide Positive Behaviour Support in Victoria. Her research interests include disability discrimination in education, reducing the use of restrictive interventions, and using SWPBS with fidelity.

Professor Wayne Sailor, USA

Wayne is Co-Director of SWIFT Education Center at the University of Kansas, a national leader in equity-based MTSS and inclusive education research and services. Currently, Wayne's research is focused on comprehensive school reform with the aim of transforming systems to integrate resources for the benefit of all students through equity-based, inclusive education, aligning systems of support to remove barriers to learning, and equitably apply all resources to all students in whole school contexts driven by MTSS and UDL strategies.

Professor George Sugai, USA

George Sugai is Professor and Carole J. Neag Endowed Chair in the Neag School of Education, Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Connecticut. His research and practice interests include school-wide positive behaviour support, behavioural disorders, applied behaviour analysis, and classroom and behaviour management, and school discipline.

Janene Swalwell, Australia

Janene, Monash University, is an educational and developmental psychologist and educator. Janene is currently researching promotion social-emotional-behavioural support for young children in Victorian preschools, implementing the Pyramid Model. Prior to working at Monash University, Janene provided and managed services for young children, including for those with disabilities, social-emotional learning needs and severe behavioural challenges. Janene is past state and national president of the Early Childhood Intervention Association. Janene also provides training in social-emotional development, the Pyramid Model, implementation support and psychological supervision.

Conference enquiries


SWPBS in Victorian government schools initiative

School-wide positive behaviour support (SWPBS) in Victorian government schools is using a coaching model supported by a central, state-wide unit.

A coaching model has been adopted to maximise the outcomes of a school’s investment in SWPBS. Research tells us that school staff learn better when training consists of coaching and feedback. Using a coaching model helps school staff to develop the practical skills for implementing SWPBS at their school, as opposed to only attending a lecture or seminar about the theory of SWPBS. Using a coaching model results in better outcomes through better fidelity of implementation.

SWPBS coaches do not support schools in regards to individual students. Coaches help establish whole-school processes.

Join the SWPBS initiative

This is a summary flowchart of the steps for a school, from initial contact with the central unit through to achieving tier I fidelity.

SWPBS flowchart (docx - 33.22kb)    SWPBS Flowchart

Step 1. expression of interest for a school to begin SWPBS

  1. The school completes a SWPBS expression of interest form (docx - 390.99kb) and emails it to central unit with 'SWPBS expression of interest' is in the subject line.
  2. The SWPBS central unit determines area coach capacity to effectively support a school on their caseload, or if another form of support is appropriate, for example, through existing Networks, FISO groups, or PLCs.
  3. If coaching is determined to be appropriate, the principal/designee meets with the SWPBS coach or central unit representative to discuss the appropriateness of SWPBS for their school.
  4. The school leadership team learns of the process, training and support required for successful implementation. If the school leadership team decides to progress, they will then begin the process of establishing staff commitment.
  5. The SWPBS coach or a central unit representative makes a presentation to school staff about SWPBS and the commitment required from staff. The school arranges how to gauge staff ‘buy-in’ to commence SWPBS. If at least 80% of school staff agree to implement SWPBS, the principal signs a SWPBS collaboration agreement.
  6. If 80% is not achieved, the coach works with the leadership team to increase the understanding of and commitment to SWPBS.

Expressions of interest will be reviewed periodically by the SWPBS Central Unit.

Step 2. application to join to the Victorian SWPBS initiative

The application to join Victorian SWPBS document (docx - 405.38kb) is completed after a school has submitted an expression of interest and have achieved 80% buy-in from school staff.


  • Student behaviour/wellbeing is identified as one of the school’s priorities
  • The principal (or assistant principal) actively participates in the implementation of SWPBS
  • The school identifies and resources a SWPBS coordinator who attends training and guides the school team in the implementation of SWPBS. It may be appropriate to consider the professional practice days to support the work of the coordinator
  • The school establishes an implementation team to implement SWPBS
  • The principal (or designee) and SWPBS implementation team members attend team training
  • The school collects data to assist with decision making
  • The school facilitates ongoing coaching of the SWPBS coordinator, which will be provided by the area coaches and the central unit
  • The principal (and leadership team) provide ongoing leadership and signalling to support the work of the SWPBS implementation team
  • The school commits to SWPBS implementation with fidelity using the self-assessment survey (SAS) and the tiered fidelity inventory (TFI) which can take 3 to 5 years.

Implementing SWPBS at your school

We know that many schools have been implementing SWPBS prior to 2017, however we don’t know if their current practices meet the minimum standards for each tier of SWPBS. Such schools should contact the central unit to arrange an evaluation using the self-assessment survey (SAS) and the tiered fidelity inventory (TFI).

Schools will receive formal recognition for implementing each tier of SWPBS. This recognition is valid for a maximum of one year, to ensure that a school’s SWPBS practices remain valid. This then permits a school to accurately and confidently say they’re a positive behaviour support (PBS) school. 

Evaluate PBS at your school

The self-assessment survey (SAS) is used by all school staff to assess their perception of behaviour support systems in their school. It examines the status and need for improvement across the whole school, non-classroom settings, classrooms, and for individual students.

To access an electronic version of the SAS, email the SWPBS central unit for a link to the relevant sections of the survey to be completed online.

The tiered fidelity inventory (TFI) is used to measure the extent to which school staff are applying the core features of SWPBS.

Find out more

How schools are assessed and acknowledged

The SWPBS central unit will assess school progress through the implementation stages. When a school achieves the criteria to qualify for one of the recognition levels, the SWPBS central unit will issue a certificate and register the school’s achievement. This recognition will be provided to the Department’s leadership and schools will be formally recognised as implementing SWPBS at the corresponding level:

Award level - blue

This award recognises schools that have:

  • a current action plan
  • an established team
  • formally administered the self-assessment survey (SAS) to all school staff in the last 12 months and collated the results, and incorporated this into the action plan
  • informally (without an external facilitator) administered the TFI within the last 12 months.

Award level - bronze

This award recognises schools that have:

  • a current action plan
  • formally administered the self-assessment survey (SAS) to all school staff in the last 12 months, scored at least 80%, and incorporated this into the action plan
  • achieved 70% or more fidelity at tier I on three consecutive administrations according to the TFI, with an external facilitator must include scoring 2 on item 1.8)
  • demonstrate the collection and analysis of major behavioural incidents and students exited from class, and include this in the action plan.

Award level - silver

This award recognises schools that have:

  • a current action plan
  • formally administered the self-assessment survey (SAS) to all school staff in the last 12 months, scored at least 80%, and incorporated this into the action plan
  • achieved 70% or more fidelity at tier I on three consecutive administrations according to the TFI and according to bronze level criteria
  • achieved 70% or more fidelity at tier II on three consecutive administrations according to the TFI, with an external facilitator (must include scoring 2 on item 2.3)
  • demonstrate the collection and analysis of major behavioural incidents and students exited from class, and include this in the action plan.

This award recognises schools that have:

  • a current action plan
  • formally administered the self-assessment survey (SAS) to all school staff in the last 12 months, scored at least 80%, and incorporated this into the action plan
  • achieved 70% or more fidelity at tier I on three consecutive administrations according to the TFI and according to bronze level criteria
  • achieved 70% or more fidelity at tier II on three consecutive administrations according to the TFI and according to silver level criteria
  • achieved 70% or more fidelity at tier III on three consecutive administrations according to the TFI, with an external facilitator (must include scoring 2 on item 3.13)
  • demonstrate the collection and analysis of major behavioural incidents and students exited from class, and include this in the action plan.

Maintaining your SWPBS award level

Because SWPBS is an ongoing process of implementation and evaluation, schools must demonstrate that they are maintaining or improving SWPBS implementation. This means that a school must formally evaluate their implementation using the TFI at least annually and submit their results to the SWPBS central unit. A school must achieve fidelity in the tier(s) each year according to the TFI and submit their results to be considered a PBS school. 

Schools which achieve blue, bronze, silver, and gold acknowledgements will be listed on the SWPBS webpage. The relevant region will be notified, and the achievement will be recorded in state-wide data produced by the central unit.

Reimbursements to schools

Schools which achieve the bronze, silver, and gold acknowledgements are eligible to apply for financial reimbursements.

To apply, complete the reimbursement application form (docx - 395.16kb).

Schools already receiving training for SWPBS

We know that some schools are receiving a variety of forms of training for SWPBS. This demonstrates a commitment to SWPBS and schools should not necessarily discontinue.

Such training is introductory, and complements coaching well, however the statewide SWPBS initiative has standards for implementation and evaluation.

For a school to be considered to be implementing SWPBS correctly (a 'PBS school'), their practices must be evaluated using the:

  • self-assessment survey (SAS),and the
  • the tiered fidelity inventory (TFI).

Staff from the central unit, coaches and select regional and area staff, as well as some experienced staff from schools are able to conduct this evaluation.

Evaluations are recognised when they are conducted in conjunction with persons with the necessary training and experience. This ensures a level of quality assurance. Contact the central unit or your coach (if you have one) if you have any questions about evaluation using the TFI.

It is important that evaluations are conducted correctly so that schools can be formally recognised for their achievements, and can apply for financial reimbursement.

Find out more

There are many sources of information and resources online about SWPBS:

Contact us