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School Climate


Improving whole-school wellbeing and academic outcomes

School climate is a holistic concept which encompasses four domains: safety, interpersonal relationships, teaching and learning, and the school environment. Improvement across these domains positively impacts student academic outcomes, and the mental health and wellbeing of the whole school community.

The 13 Dimensions of School Climate

 Rules and Norms

 Social Support - Students

 Physical Security

 Connectedness and Engagement

 Social-Emotional Security

 Physical Surroundings

 Support for Learning

 Social Media

 Social and Civic Learning



 Professional Relationships

 Social Support - Adults

Key Features

School climate and school culture are different. Climate is a product of relationships and how people feel about their school. Culture concerns values, meanings and beliefs, and how things are done. Climate can be shifted more easily than culture. A positive school climate enhances learning environments.


School climate is a multidimensional, holistic concept that encompasses a number of domains: safety, teaching and learning, interpersonal relationships, and the (external) environment. It is a result of relationships between students, school staff, parents and the community.


School climate — positive or negative — is a major factor in student achievement, and mental health and wellbeing. For students this includes prosocial behaviour, social inclusion, attendance, belonging and connectedness; and for educators, job satisfaction, retention, self-efficacy, and wellbeing.


Improvement endeavours are more effective when all four climate domains are addressed simultaneously. Effective cycles of improvement are ongoing, “intentional, strategic, collaborative, transparent, and coordinated” [1] and involve whole-school engagement.

Implications for Educators

Holistic approaches are more likely to be effective when compared to efforts which focus on one domain at a time. A comprehensive review of school climate will help to identify and determine targets for improvement in each domain. Reviews should include all stakeholder perspectives.

Social capital (quality of relationships) is an essential element to be modelled by all members of the school — students, staff and community. This includes supporting social and emotional learning (SEL), peer modelling, and building collaborative, caring relationships.

Leaders who model positive climate characteristics enable change to permeate throughout all areas of a school. These characteristics include building quality interpersonal relationships based on trust, shared leadership across the school (students and staff), and a culture of inclusion.

Professional learning for educators and staff should include social and emotional learning, and link to not only wellbeing and curriculum but also school climate literacy. Teachers who are literate in climate and SEL are better able to model positive behaviours and sustain positive climates.

AISNSW Support
Jo McLean
02 9299 2845
Senior Asst Div Head: Professional Learning
Nicky Sloss
02 9299 2845
Consultant: Student Wellbeing