Engagement strategies for individual students

This page lists engagement support programs available to target individual students. It is important that parents and carers are aware of any difficulties their child experiences at school and are involved in the strategies to address them.

Student support group

It is important that parents/carers are aware of any difficulties experienced at school and are involved in decisions about additional supports made available to students. Student support group meetings are known to be an effective early intervention strategy.

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.

Some students may already have a student support group, as every student in receipt of Program for Students with Disabilities funding, in out-of-home care and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students are required to have a student support group.

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.

For more information, see: Student support groups

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, and 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.

The Department requires that all government schools develop an individual education plan for each Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student, in a partnership between teachers, student, parent or caregiver and the Koorie Engagement Support Officer. See: Koorie education learning plan (pdf - 1.56mb)

The out-of-home-care partnering agreement also commits to an educational needs assessment for all students in out-of-home care. For more information about supporting students in out-of-home care, see: Out-of-home care and homelessness

For more information on supports for these groups of students, see: Support and resources for specific groups of students

Individual education plans may be implemented following an attendance improvement plan, or a return to school plan if a student’s educational attainment is an issue. For more information, see: Individual education plans

Behaviour support plan

As part of a student support group or discipline procedures, it may be useful to develop and use a behaviour support plan (BSP). A BSP is a school-based document designed to assist individual students who have experienced harm, are at risk of harm, or have caused harm to others. For more information, see:

Attendance improvement plan and return to school plan

To assist in the re-engagement of students with attendance issues, an attendance improvement plan can be introduced as an intervention strategy.

To assist in the reintegration of a student after a prolonged absence, a return to school plan can be implemented.

Attendance improvement plans and return to school 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. To access the template, see: Attendance and enrolment resources

Additional support for individual students 

Student support services

Student support services assist children and young people facing a range of barriers to learning to achieve their educational and developmental potential through a range of strategies and by providing specialised support at individual, group, school or area levels.

It is made up of a broad range of professionals including psychologists, speech pathologists and social workers. Schools should use the Department's student support services guidelines to support local student support service delivery arrangements.

For more information on SSS, see: Student support services

Student online cases system (SOCS)

The student online case system (SOCS) assists principals and student support services to support students by providing a data management system for all SSS cases, assessments and interventions. SOCS is an online application that provides:

  • a tool for managing individual SSS cases, from request and case preparation to service activity and case closure
  • information and data to support area based teams to develop SSS service priorities, assessing resource needs; monitoring service delivery; and assessing service outcomes.

For more information on SSS and SOCS, see: Student support services

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. Re-engagement programs usually cater to a particular catchment area within a region, and are delivered by a school, sometimes in partnership with a community agency or registered training organisation. Examples include community VCAL programs and student development centres.

A re-engagement program is only an appropriate option for a student if:

  • school-based strategies to improve their engagement in the mainstream school setting have not been successful
  • a student is not enrolled in school and faces significant barriers to returning to a mainstream school environment.

When determining if a re-engagement program is a suitable option, the primary consideration must be the student’s educational and wellbeing needs.

For more information on re-engagement program policy, see: Re-engagement programs

To find out about re-engagement programs in your region, contact the local School Focused Youth Service or your local regional office. For contact details, see: Regions

School Focused Youth Service

Schools and community organisations work together, through the School Focused Youth Service (SFYS), to support at risk young people who require prevention or early intervention strategies to assist their learning, development, health and wellbeing. For more information on the support that SFYS can provide, and to find the SFYS agency in your area, see: School Focused Youth Service


A referral to Child FIRST is the best way of connecting children, young people and their families to the services they need. 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. For contact details, see: Child and family information, referral and support teams

Other community agencies

Responding to the wellbeing needs of individual students is not the responsibility of schools alone. Other government and community-based agencies can provide specialist support to children and families around a range of individual and family needs. Schools may work directly with local agencies to establish arrangements for referral and collaboration.

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. See: Berry Street
  • 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. See: Anglicare
  • Brotherhood of St Laurence works to alleviate and prevent poverty and can provide support to children, young people, adults and families. See: Brotherhood of St Laurence
  • 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. See: Smith Family
  • 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 ID aims to improve awareness about carers and provides an easy referral process to link identified carers to support services.  See: Carers Victoria  and Carers ID​.

Schools requiring assistance in locating appropriate agencies may also contact their regional office or local council for advice.​