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Authors: Rebecca Wilkinson, Jessica Fulcher, Rochelle Cox

Evaluator company/business: Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation

Year: 2021

URL or PDF: Positive Behaviour for Learning evaluation

Summary: Positive Behaviour for Learning (PBL) is a whole school approach that aims to create a positive, safe and supportive school climate in which students can learn and develop. The Department provided $15M over four years to employ 32 PBL coach mentors and four PBL deputy principals to support schools in delivering this opt in initiative. CESE’s process and outcome evaluation comprised multiple surveys and fieldwork with participating and non-participating PBL schools, and undertook outcomes analyses of suspensions data, attendance data and Tell Them From Me data. The evaluation estimated more than 1100 schools were participating in PBL, with a retention rate of 94%. Almost all schools reported implementing each of the universal school-wide features of PBL. Coach mentors provided schools with professional learning, general information about PBL, and support with data and evaluation, and are viewed as a source of expert knowledge and advice. Using their own internal school data, observations and feedback from parents, nearly nine in ten PBL schools reported perceiving PBL to have improved student wellbeing, and a large majority reported reductions in major and minor problem behaviour incidents since implementing PBL. There was a strong and widespread belief amongst schools that PBL is having a positive impact on student wellbeing and behaviour at the universal level. Currently, 1608 NSW public schools have implemented PBL. However, it has not been successful for Tiers 2 and 3 in targeted and individual support systems. The outcome analyses indicated no real difference in attendance rates, wellbeing and suspension rates between PBL schools and Non-PBL schools. We identified a number of limitations in the use of these data sources as outcome measures. Study limitations were identified that may have had an impact on the findings and these need to be considered when weighing this evidence against the feedback from schools. Behaviour and Student Participation have reviewed the human resources within the department to enact system-wide change to the way we support behaviour as part of the new Student Behaviour Strategy. As a result, the existing PBL Coach Mentors ceased at the end of 2020 and new Behaviour Specialist positions began on Day 1, Term 1, 2021.

Published in Evaluation repository

Evaluation of the Y-PEP a child protection program in schools (PDF, 1.7MB)

Authors: Ernst & Young

Evaluator company/business: Ernst & Young

Year: 2018

URL or PDF: Evaluation of the Y-PEP a child protection program in schools (PDF, 1.7MB)

Summary: The aim of the evaluation was to understand the extent to which the Y-PEP program, delivered by the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), was supporting the delivery of child protection education in NSW government and non-government schools. The Y-PEP program started in 2016 and was set to end in late 2019. Ernst & Young (EY) began and completed the evaluation in 2018.

The evaluation used a mixed-methods approach, which consisted of analysing quantitative program data (school demographic data; student and teacher feedback survey data; and quarterly program data, as collected by YWCA) and qualitative data (data from semi-structured interviews of stakeholders at participating schools, as conducted by EY).

The evaluation questions aimed to understand the extent to which the Y-PEP program:

  • provided appropriate delivery of child protection education to students
  • had been effectively implemented and delivered to students
  • had impacts on students' and teachers' child protection knowledge.

The evaluation found that the Y-PEP program:

  • was an appropriate method for delivering child protection education to students
  • was effectively implemented and delivered to schools, but had some scope for improvement
  • was having positive impacts on students’ and teachers’ awareness of child protection education.


 We are committed to providing accessible content for all users. To request an accessible version of this context, please contact us.

Published in Evaluation repository

 The impact of bushfires on student wellbeing and student learning (PDF, 1.3MB)

The impact of bushfires on student wellbeing and student learning (PDF, 1.3MB)

The catastrophic bushfires that occurred across NSW in late 2019 to early 2020 have had a significant impact on school operations. In response to the fires, the NSW Premier declared a State of Emergency on three separate occasions and the bushfires received wide media coverage both in Australia and internationally. A large number of schools temporarily ceased operation during the bushfire crisis. In February 2020, the NSW Department of Education formed a new Bushfire Relief Strategy Directorate charged with developing a strategy that provides direction for managing future bushfire seasons. The strategy outlines the department’s approach to assisting schools to recover from bushfires across the short, medium and long term.

This paper aims to support the strategy by bringing together the available research on the potential impact of natural disasters on student wellbeing and student learning, contextualised to school education in NSW. The first section describes the research on students’ distress and mental health in the short-term and long-term stages after bushfires and other natural disasters. The second section looks at the potential impact of bushfires on student learning and considers the implications for NSW schools in relation to student learning, student assessment, and disaster education.

We are committed to providing accessible content for all users and are working towards providing this PDF in a more accessible format. To request an accessible version, please contact us.

Published in Research report

Process evaluation of the Refugee Student Counselling Support Team

Authors: Rebecca Wilkinson, Jessica Fulcher, Rochelle Cox

Evaluator company/business: Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation

URL or PDF: Process evaluation of the Refugee Student Counselling Support Team

Summary: The Refugee Student Counselling Support Team (RSCST) provides specialised support to NSW public schools that have refugee students enrolled. The process evaluation comprised 43 in-depth interviews with RSCST team members, school-based staff, Refugee Support Leaders and other providers of refugee services; development of four case studies to illustrate good practice; and review of activity data and self-evaluation data collected by the team. The study found that school staff consistently observed that the RSCST's work has led to improvements in refugee students' social and emotional skills, a reduced incidence and intensity of negative behaviours, and an increased readiness to learn. Further, many school staff felt more confident and supported to put into practice the skills and strategies learnt from the RSCST's capacity-building sessions and side-by-side counselling support. The report includes four case studies that showcase how the RSCST supports NSW public schools, including: complex case support and classroom teacher capacity building; the benefits of play therapy; supporting a new regional refugee settlement area, and RSCST's collaborative working relationship with STARTTS and the benefits for schools.

Published in Evaluation repository

BestPractices2020 v1

Best practicescreating a positive learning environment (PDF, 70kB)

Using the department's remote learning resources


The modern classroom is ever-changing. The following evidence-based teaching strategies can assist teachers as they support students’ education continuity, in an online and/or remote learning environment.

Explicit teaching

  • Clearly show students what to do and how to do it (for example, providing explanation videos, hard/soft copy worked examples or completed exemplars).
  • Explain the purpose and relevance of all tasks (for example, providing visual lesson outlines, learning intentions, the activities or key instructions, and the success criteria for the lesson).

Read more on explicit teaching in What works best: 2020 update and What works best in practice.

Manage cognitive load

  • Cut out inessential information.
  • Present all the essential information together.
  • Simplify complex information by presenting it both orally and visually.
  • Encourage students to visualise concepts and procedures that they have learnt.

Read more on cognitive load in Cognitive load theory and Managing cognitive load through effective presentations.

Support routines

  • Provide daily to-do lists and day schedule.
  • Have students submit work regularly.

Read more on classroom management in Classroom management and Leading from home – school planning.

Maintain high expectations

  • Be clear about what is expected of students (for example, student behaviour and tasks).
  • Provide effective feedback that includes constructive and actionable steps on how students can improve.
  • Encourage student personal best goal setting.

Read more on high expectations in How high expectations and engagement in primary school drive student learning and What works best: 2020 update.


  • Draw on collective teacher expertise (for example, co-plan lessons, share best practice models and resources).
  • Regularly inform parents and carers of their child’s progress, learning expectations and learning goals.

Read more on collaboration in Improving high school engagement, classroom practices and achievement and What works best: 2020 update

Active supervision

  • Check-in daily with students.

Read more on active supervision in Classroom management and Learning from home – delivery of learning.

Support student wellbeing

  • Encourage student feedback and suggestions to help students feel connected to their learning.
  • Engage students in positive self-talk, discuss issues when they arise and encourage students to ask for help.
  • Provide tips on how students can manage their time effectively.
  • Promote emotional safety through preventative strategies, such as teaching students self-regulation (for example, breathing and meditation exercises).

Read more on student wellbeing in Capturing and measuring student voice and Improving high school engagement, classroom practices and achievement.

For emotional safety preventative and responsive strategies, read Trauma-informed practice in schools: An explainer.

Support a safe online/remote learning environment

  • Provide students and parents information on respectful, responsible and safe use of digital devices.
  • Clearly communicate procedures for staff, parents and carers to report concerns or online bullying.

Read more on online safety in Anti-bullying interventions in schools, on the digital citizenship website, the eSafety website or download the eSafety toolkit for schools.


Using the department’s remote learning resources

Learning from home

The department’s dedicated Learning from home webpages provide resources and advice for teachers and parents including information on:

Literacy and numeracy resources for teachers

The Literacy and numeracy website supports the explicit teaching and learning of literacy and numeracy in schools by providing the latest resources including:

  • learning progressions
  • EAL/D learning progressions
  • PLAN2
  • podcasts
  • case studies

Teachers can also access the Literacy and numeracy professional learning.

Published in Tools for teachers

Impact of mobile digital devices in schools (PDF, 2MB)

Impact of mobile digital devices in schools (PDF, 2MB) - a literature review on the impact of non-educational mobile digital device use on student wellbeing. 

Published in Research report
Friday, 20 July 2018

Supporting students' learning

Supporting students' learning - insights from students, parents and teachers (PDF, 1MB)Supporting-students-learning-resources-thumb

The Supporting students' learning - insights from students, parents and teachers (PDF, 1MB) learning curve presents findings from the 2016 Tell Them From Me school surveys completed by primary and secondary students, parents/carer and teachers in NSW government schools. Students provide feedback on how much support they receive from their teachers and their parents/carers, while responses from teachers and parent/carers indicate how much support they provide in school and at home, respectively. It draws on all three perspectives to explore the provision of advocacy and support and how this varies for different groups of students at different stages of school. 

The Supporting students' learning - resources and case studies for schools, teachers and parents (PDF, 808kB) accompanies the learning curve, providing evidence-based strategies and two case studies that describe how to create supportive learning environments. 

Read the audio paper transcript (PDF, 106kB). 

Supporting students' learning poster

Supporting students' learning MyPL course



Alongside effective teaching practices, students need a supportive learning environment to succeed. In an education context, advocacy and support for learning refers to the active consideration of, and support for, students’ academic and wellbeing needs.

Main findings

  • The results show that students and teachers report different levels of advocacy and support in school depending on the stage of schooling. Students’ perceptions of teacher support start to decline in the final years of primary school. Secondary school students perceive teacher support to dip in the middle years of school, before improving in Years 11 and 12. Teachers report that they increase the amount of classroom support they provide to students in key schooling years (Years 5-6 and Years 10-12).
  • In NSW, both parents and students report a continual decline in the frequency of supportive interactions at home that relate to school.
  • While there are some differences between boys’ and girls’ experiences of advocacy and support in school and at home, there is a large disadvantage gap between low and high-SES students. These findings suggest that more can be done to make sure all students have access to support sources, which they can turn to for advice and encouragement.
  • Accompanying this Learning Curve, CESE has used evidence-based practices and local examples to provide practical strategies for fostering advocacy and support in schools and at home. Case studies on Whalan Public School and Sir Joseph Banks High School highlight some of the programs and initiatives these schools have used to achieve high levels of advocacy at school. This qualitative research shows that schools that provide high levels of advocacy at school are also committed to strengthening the homeschool partnership for their students.

More information

The NSW Department of Education Strategic Plan 2018-2022 includes the commitment to ensure that every student is known, valued and cared for in our schools. School advocacy and support for learning are necessary components for happy and successful students. Schools can use the department’s Tell Them From Me surveys to engage with, clarify and strengthen the important relationship between teachers, parents and schools by providing an evidence-based platform to capture feedback. This knowledge can then help build an accurate and timely picture that schools can use for practical improvements.

The summary on this page is also available as a PDF. Download the summary of the two publications (PDF, 180kB).

Published in Research report

Tell Them From Me Student Survey Trial Final Rpt 2014

Authors: Marita Merlene, Wendy Hodge, Kerry Hart, Alexandra Ellinson, Ofir Thaler

Evaluator company/business: ARTD Consultants

Year: 2014

URL or PDF: Download the Evaluation of the 'Tell Them From Me' student survey trial (PDF, 1.14MB).

Summary: This formative evaluation provided insight and advice for the future implementation of student surveys. Mixed methods were used —surveys, case studies in five schools and semi-structured interviews. 172 secondary schools and 55 primary schools took part in the pilot  online student survey and were approached to participate in the evaluation. The evaluation found that principals favoured the continuation of the student survey and the introduction of similar surveys for teachers and for parents.

Published in Evaluation repository

 Clontarf Rpt

Authors: Katrina Yu, Duncan Rintoul, Steven Hao, Ian Watkins, Wai-Yin Wan

Evaluator company/business: Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation, NSW Department of Education

Year: 2017

URL or PDF: Download the Evaluation of the NSW Clontarf Academies Program 2017 (PDF, 2MB)

Summary: This report presents the findings of CESE's evaluation of the Clontarf Academies program, which currently operates in 25 schools across NSW. The scope covers the 12 Academies established before 2016, with a focus on the seven established in 2012. This evaluation draws on administrative data on school attendance, retention, suspensions, NAPLAN participation, post-school outcomes and contact with the criminal justice system, as well as stakeholder interviews, site visits and a survey of Clontarf participants. The evaluation has three components: a process evaluation, an outcome evaluation and an economic evaluation.

Published in Evaluation repository

anti bullying thumb

Anti-bullying interventions literature review (PDF, 1.1MB)

One-page summary (PDF, 251kB)

Evidence summary poster for school staffrooms

Anti-bullying interventions myPL course 


This literature review provides the evidence base for the department’s anti-bullying strategy. Released in 2017, the NSW Anti-bullying Strategy brings together evidence-based resources and information to support schools, parents and carers, and students to prevent and respond to bullying effectively.
Bullying can be face-to-face, covert or online. It has three main features: it involves repeated actions, is intended to cause distress or harm, and is grounded in an imbalance of power.

In 2015, 14.8 per cent of Australian students reported being bullied at least a few times per month. Bullying peaks during the transition from primary school to high school, before decreasing to low levels by the end of high school. Boys tend to bully more than girls, however, girls use more covert bullying than boys.

Main findings

Anti-bullying programs reduce bullying behaviours by an average of 20 – 23 per cent.

The most effective anti-bullying interventions:

• take a holistic, whole-school and whole-community approach, which includes promoting awareness of anti-bullying interventions

• include educational content in the classroom that allows students to develop social and emotional competencies, and to learn appropriate ways to respond to bullying – both as a student who experiences bullying and as a bystander

• provide support and sustainable professional development for school staff on how best to enhance understanding, skills and self-efficacy to address and prevent bullying behaviours

• ensure systematic implementation and evaluation.

There are Australian and international examples of whole-schools approaches that have the characteristics common to effective anti-bullying interventions and have been subjected to program evaluations. Australian examples are the National Safe Schools Framework, Positive Behaviour for Learning, Friendly Schools, KidsMatter and MindMatters. International examples are the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (Norway), Sheffield Anti-Bullying Project (England), Seville Anti-Bullying in School Project (Spain) and KiVa Anti-Bullying Program (Finland).
Schools need greater support to maximise the outcomes of anti-bullying interventions and to identify what is likely to be successful based on their specific contexts and requirements. There is very little available currently in the way of specific advice to guide schools in their choice of anti-bullying programs.

More information

Visit the department's anti-bullying website.

Related publications:

The role of student engagement in the transition from primary to secondary school. 


Evidence summary poster for school staffrooms

To help share the evidence, Anti-bullying interventions is available as a summary poster (PDF, 1.4MB)

What does the poster say?

  • In 2015, 14.8% of Australian students reported being bullied at least a few times per month.
  • Bullying peaks during the transition from primary school to high school.
    It decreases to low levels by the end of high school. Boys tend to bully more than girls, however, girls use more covert bullying than boys.

  • Anti-bullying programs reduce bullying behaviours by an average of 20-23%.

The NSW Anti-bullying Strategy

In 2017, the Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation (CESE) released a literature review on effective anti-bullying interventions in schools. This review became the evidence base for the NSW Department of Education’s Anti-bullying Strategy. This strategy brings together evidence-based resources and information to support schools, parents and carers, and students to prevent and respond to bullying effectively.
Bullying can be face-to-face, covert or online.

It has three main features:
• it involves repeated actions
• is intended to cause distress or harm, and
• is grounded in an imbalance of power.
The most effective anti-bullying interventions:
• take a holistic, whole-school and whole-community approach
• include educational content in the classroom that allows students to learn appropriate ways to respond to bullying
• provide support and sustainable professional development for school staff
• ensure systematic implementation and evaluation.

Published in Research report
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