Implementing a whole learning community approach 

School counsellor Glenn Hart started Richmond Primary School’s whole-school approach to mental health and wellbeing in 2015. His title and role have since changed but his passion for the wellbeing of students and staff has remained strong. 

Mar 12, 2019

Richmond Primary School is a medium-sized primary school located in Adelaide, South Australia.

In addition to 10 mainstream classes for Reception to Year 7 students, the school has five intensive English Language Program classes and one Speech and Language class. It's a culturally diverse school, with students from around 40 different nations.

The school's professional learning journey

As staff progressed through professional learning, the value and impact of a whole-school approach snow-balled. The whole school and individual staff changed practices regarding student behaviour through conversations of shared practices as well as the sharing of student learning in social and emotional learning (SEL) at school assemblies, newsletters and display boards.

Social and emotional learning (SEL)

Early on it became apparent that SEL was incongruent with an autocratic and punitive approach to student behaviour. Over time, staff stopped using a step system in their classes to manage it; instead, they adopted a model that facilitates student self-discipline and enhances the SEL of students.

“The school now engages a strategically planned multiple program approach to SEL with a circles approach to teaching SEL content,” Glenn says. “This has significantly improved student engagement and outcomes in social and emotional learning.”

Glenn identified some key elements that interacted to produce this change:

  • All staff expanded their awareness of factors that influence children’s social and emotional wellbeing, engagement with learning, and behaviour.
  • All student wellbeing and SEL was given a higher status and priority. 


Richmond Primary School Counsellor Glenn Hart talks to pupils who are continuing their wellbeing journey through Be You.


Overcoming barriers to embed SEL

Like many school communities, Richmond Primary School faced many barriers on its journey to develop, implement and embed a high-quality whole-school approach to SEL. Glenn took a lead role in addressing these challenges. This involved an in-depth study of SEL literature regarding implementation to increase knowledge and expertise in SEL programs and their delivery.

Glenn set up a system to regularly model quality SEL program delivery in each classroom and provides one-on-one support to teachers to improve their delivery. He advises other schools to consider SEL from a multiple-level perspective that features:

  • explicitly teaching SEL lessons. This is planned and intentional, with a sequenced approach, and is highly interactive. Avoid the teacher talk followed by individual student work on a worksheet. 
  • implicitly teaching and reinforcing SEL content. This is when the teacher makes use of ‘teachable moments’ to reinforce the content that's already been explored in SEL lessons.
  • integrating SEL content into all curriculum areas. 
  • modelling SEL content – students develop their SEL competencies through observing the behaviour of others. This includes how teachers interact with their students, other teachers, school services officers, school leadership and parents.
  • targeting SEL small group programming – the school has specialised SEL lessons for small groups of 5-8 students in specific topics.
  • targeting SEL at an individual level – the teacher identifies the individual developmental needs of a student and provides the support needed for the student to progress.


Continuing Professional Learning with Be You

“I'm excited about using the Be You framework to continue staff professional learning to support students’ social and emotional development and wellbeing in the classroom and at school,” Glenn says. “I’m also eager to see Richmond Primary School utilise the Be You whole learning community assessment tools, Programs Directory, and staff self-care resources that have been tailored specifically to the Australian context.” 

Self-care is something Glenn recognises as being important to the development of student wellbeing, with teacher and student wellbeing as interconnected as two sides of the same coin.