Social support for students

This module offers suggestions about ways schools can provide support to all students, and identify and support at risk students.

Focus questions
  1. Did the “Social support for students” sub-aspect data suggest any next steps for your school? 
  2. Did your Student Survey data suggest that there are some groups of students who appear to be more at risk than others?
  3. Do you have other school data about this area of school practice? What does this tell you?

Key ideas about providing social support for students

Certain groups of students are more at risk than others of poorer long-term education and health and wellbeing outcomes. Some groups that can be more at risk include students with special learning needs or mental health concerns, Māori or Pacific students, and those who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. Students in these groups may need additional support that is tailored to their needs.

Reflective question(s)

To what extent are the needs of different groups of students met through the pastoral care system? Are there any groups of students who miss out?


Ways of working could include:

Providing support to ALL students

  • Reviewing pastoral care, guidance and support to ensure these services meet the needs of different groups of students, and in particular any groups of students who appear more at risk.
  • Identify and give additional support
  • Reviewing the school referral system to ensure students with behavioural difficulties are identified and supported. **
  • Providing professional learning for teachers about recognising and responding to student concerns.
  • Ensuring students know how to access school pastoral care services (such as guidance counsellors or SWiS) as well as helpline services for youth, e.g., Youthline.


Providing support to at risk students

  • Working with new students and their parents and whānau to ensure they are welcomed in their first week of school. See ERO guidelines about supporting mobile students in Managing Transience: Good Practice in Primary Schools (April 2007).
  • Using screening data to identify potentially at risk students (e.g., Before School Check, Travellers screening assessment, HEADS assessment tool (school nurse)).
  • Consulting with students, staff, parents and whānau, and other support people to review how support is provided to students with special learning needs.
  • Providing specialised sessions or courses for identified groups (e.g., sessions for those experiencing difficult life events, or anger management sessions for small groups of students).
  • Working in culturally-responsive ways with Māori students who have behaviour difficulties (e.g., see the Hikairo rationale (Macfarlane, 2007) and Conduct Problems: Effective programmes for 8–12-year-olds (Advisory Group on Conduct Problems, 2011)).
  • Setting up support groups for minority students (e.g., those who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender).
  • Working with parents and whānau on joint approaches to addressing behaviour concerns and building skills.


**denotes PB4L-School-wide core practice. Core practices are more effective if they are implemented together.