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C1 Module 1.4

Relationships and belonging

Before You Begin

What might be some barriers to people connecting with your school?

The relationships and interactions we have at school influence how connected we feel. Occasionally barriers prevent people from feeling connected to the school. List some example barrier that could prevent people feeling connected to their school.

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The heart of MindMatters is relationships and belonging – but how is this achieved?

Connectedness: A powerful protective factor

Connectedness — the sense of caring for others and being cared for—is one of the most powerful protective factors in mental health, and forms the core of the MindMatters framework.

In school, we can develop connectedness by focusing on four areas:
  • relationships
  • belonging
  • inclusion
  • active participation.
While there is a lot of overlap between these areas, each also has its own distinct flavour and focus. By adopting certain strategies to improve your habits and by adopting policies across these four areas, schools can create a positive school community that helps each student fulfil their potential both academically and as whole human beings.


Positive relationships between students and school staff can lead to the school community becoming a source of security, stability and support for all students. This is likely to be especially important for those students who are exposed to a number of risk factors in their home, school and in the broader community.

Respectful relationships value a person’s strengths, and in a school setting every individual will have strengths and can feel valued.


A sense of belonging provides young people with purpose, meaning, self-worth and social control, all of which are contributors to positive mental health.

Students with a sense of belonging are more motivated to participate actively in the life of the classroom than those students who do not have this kind of experience. Conversely, the feeling of not belonging or social isolation can lead to a range of negative — and under some circumstances, long term — consequences, both physical and psychological.


Inclusive schools welcome all school staff, students and their families. Inclusion involves embracing the diversity that exists within a community. Schools can celebrate and honour the differences in belief, religion, culture, language, socio economic circumstances, family arrangement, gender, sexual orientation and more.


Schools are well placed to develop inclusive practices to ensure that everyone is included and feels that they belong.

Active participation

Active participation refers to individuals taking part in school life and contributing meaningfully to the school community.

MindMatters schools are student-centred and actively engage students in discussions and activities that are important to them. If students can make a meaningful contribution on the issues that affect them, they will have a sense of importance and feel respected by the school. This can flow on to improved attitudes to school and increased engagement.

What could you do to help others (students, parents, other staff) feel connected to your school?

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