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Berry Street Education Model (BSEM) for school support staff

Sharyn D’Souza BSEM Consultant

Berry Street Education Model (BSEM) empowers educators with trauma-informed, strengths-based strategies to build safer, healthier, and more engaged classrooms. BSEM empowers educators to gain new perspectives and skills to increase all students’ engagement with learning through proven strategies that help them learn, thrive, and succeed.

With a vision to courageously change lives and reimagine education systems, BSEM builds on Berry Street’s 140 years of experience supporting children and families, and over a decade of education research and practice strategies.

Non-instructional and instructional staff work together each day to support school communities. BSEM acknowledges the important roles that each staff member plays to support learning and wellbeing across the campus. This article generally uses ‘school support’ to describe school staff members who do not hold a teaching role. Your school may use different language to describe these roles.

Whole-school approach for all students and staff

Strategies from BSEM can be used as part of a whole-school approach that includes leadership, teaching staff, and school support staff. All members of a school community are involved in and contribute to the work of educating and supporting students. When all staff members of a school community are aware of the impacts of trauma and stress overload, they are better able to respond to the needs of all students.

Our research continues to suggest a whole-school approach is inclusive of all members of a school and extends classroom practices to the wider school environment. Knowing that successful implementation of BSEM involves all staff proactively working together, a whole-school approach recognises how different factors both inside and outside a classroom and wider school environment can impact the wellbeing of students. A whole-school approach bolsters an environment that encourages academic progress as well as personal growth.

A whole-school approach uses a curriculum that supports students to develop skills such as self-awareness, self-regulation, and relational connection. It prioritises early intervention to identify and support students who may be having difficulties.

School support staff as part of whole-school approach

School support staff play an important role in the implementation of a whole-school approach. School support roles are any non-teaching roles within a school community. These roles include but are not limited to teaching assistants, wellbeing staff, librarians, first aid officers, administration officers, career advisors, and facilities staff.

School support staff can be involved in a whole school approach by:

  • collaborating with teaching staff and leadership to integrate strategies into daily routines
  • contributing unique perspectives and expertise during collaborative planning, sharing knowledge and expertise of working with and role-modelling for students in different ways
  • mentoring and guiding students who may need a supportive presence
  • contributing to an inclusive culture by modelling positive and respectful interactions
  • participating in social-emotional learning (SEL) initiatives such as emotional intelligence and mindfulness
  • responding to individual students, working as part of a support network to address concerns or challenges.

Why school support should be included in a whole-school approach

When contributing to a whole-school approach, school support staff contribute to holistic student support that addresses academic needs as well as social and emotional wellbeing through a lens of comprehensive care, including:

  • student learning – students are more likely to progress academically when their wellbeing is supported
  • positive school culture – the involvement of all community members fosters an inclusive and positive culture
  • early intervention – school support staff have close connections with students, providing opportunities to notice changes in students’ wellbeing and facilitate assistance
  • healthy behaviours – adults can model healthy behaviours for students, influencing the health and resilience of those around them
  • community engagement – a whole-school approach can extend beyond the school gates to families and community members.

Strategies for different roles

Different school support roles can incorporate BSEM strategies as part of regular interactions with students, supporting the implementation of BSEM as a whole-school approach where all staff are consistent, predictable adults in the community.

Learn more about how different school support roles can use BSEM strategies in the supporting document Implementing BSEM strategies across the school community. We encourage you to share these materials with all staff to remind them that everyone has a role to play. Through whole-school implementation of BSEM, including school support staff, schools can work towards creating an environment that supports personal growth and bolsters academic success.


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