Mental health and wellbeing is vital for learning and life. Children who are mentally healthy learn better, benefit from life experiences and have stronger relationships with family members, school staff and peers. Good mental health in childhood also provides a solid foundation for:

  • managing the transition to adolescence and adulthood
  • engaging sucessfully in education
  • making a meaningful contribution to society.

School is the most significant developmental context, after family, for primary school-aged children. Schools play a crucial role in building children's self esteem and sense of competence. They can also act as a safety net and assist in protecting children from circumstances that affect their learning, development and wellbeing.

Schools, working closely with families and the community, are key environments for comprehensively supporting children's mental health and wellbeing.

As a national initiative, KidsMatter Primary, through its national and state and territory teams, provides a range of resources and support to all interested primary schools. These are provided free of charge. KidsMatter is funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health.

The benefits

KidsMatter was extensively evaluated in 2009 by Flinders University. The evaluation found clear benefits for students, school staff and for schools.

Benefits for students included:

  • Increased positive mental health (eg optimism and coping)
  • Reduced mental health difficulties (eg emotional symptoms, hyperactivity, conduct problems and peer difficulties)
  • Improvements in behaviour and motivation for students already experiencing mental health challenges

Benefits for staff included:

  • Increased staff satisfaction
  • Professional learning opportunities
  • Improved student learning and behaviour

Benefits for schools included:

  • Stronger parent engagement and parenting capacity
  • More effective partnerships with community
  • Improved student educational outcomes

A subsequent analysis of the data found that “…KidsMatter appears to be positively associated with the level of student academic achievement, equivalent to 6 months more schooling by Year 7, over and above any influence of socio-economic background.”

You can read more about the impact of KidsMatter on NAPLAN results in the journal article: Implementation Quality of Whole-School Mentral Health Promotion and Student's Academic Performance (2011).

Theory

There are a number of models from Australia and overseas which contribute to the theoretical underpinnings of KidsMatter Primary. There is more detail about these in our Socio-ecological model (schools and families together) (Bronfenbrenner Ecological Systems theory 1997)