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MacKillop Education’s RELATE (Rethinking Learning and Teaching Environments) model is a holistic, trauma-informed and responsive, school culture change model.

Developed by MacKillop Family Services for the Australian education context, RELATE creates a culture of safety, inclusion and wellbeing for optimal learning across the whole school, informed by international trauma-informed education principles.

At its core, RELATE promotes safe relationships - not only for students, but equally for families, teachers and other staff who provide education and support services. In such a culture, safe and supportive learning environments are maintained in classrooms where students are not just known but understood, stress is minimised and teachers are supported in their professional growth.

Since introducing the model at MacKillop Schools in Geelong and Maidstone, we have seen marked improvement in students’:

  • social and emotional wellness
  • achievement of learning goals and personal accountability
  • behaviour and emotion management
  • academic success
  • attendance

Frequently Asked Questions

Supported by congruent school policies and practice, RELATE creates a safe, predictable school environment where students’ wellbeing and learning flourishes and teachers’ professional proficiency grows.

Establishing safe relationships is the essential first step to create a culture that acknowledges the pervasive nature of adversity and builds trust and reliability that leads to recovery and growth.

RELATE creates a whole school culture of safety and wellbeing, supported by practical strategies through four key components:

  1. A universal theoretical basis in trauma and educational theory that provides a lens for understanding culture, diversity and trauma-based behaviour
  2. A values base for creating, maintaining and restoring safe school relationships and environments
  3. The trauma-informed framework represented by the acronym S.E.L.F. (Safety, Emotions, Loss, and Future) which attends to common barriers to change and positive relationships
  4. A set of practical strategies for creating and maintaining a culture of safety and wellbeing in schools and classrooms.

RELATE combines international trauma-informed principles and approaches and translates them into the essential elements of a trauma responsive learning and teaching environment for the Australian education context. These elements make visible what the school does to support teachers in their professional learning and performance development, as well as what a proficient teacher does to ensure that each student flourishes in line with Australia Professional Standards for Teachers.

Students can expect:

  • improved emotional management
  • more age-appropriate conduct
  • less hyperactivity or violent outbursts
  • healthier peer relationships
  • improved capacity for learning.

Teachers can expect:

  • increased levels of occupational safety, work satisfaction and professional support
  • increased theoretical foundation for their practice and a greater understanding of the effects of stress on learning
  • better emotional management and self-care.

Families can expect:

  • increased participation in their child’s learning
  • more positive experiences - at home and in connecting with the school
  • increased sense that the family and school are partners, working collaboratively in the best interests of the child.

School leaders can expect:

  • greater ability to demonstrate delivery of State and National statutory requirements
  • lower staff turnover.

MacKillop introduced the Sanctuary Model in their MacKillop Specialist School in Geelong in 2014. Informed by Sanctuary, the MacKillop Education team adapted and developed their education model, RELATE which draws on the impressive credentials of Sanctuary evidence from over 30 years in over 200 organisations internationally.

Evidence from the MacKillop Schools of strong measurable growth in wellbeing, attendance and learning, alongside significant decreases in critical incidents, support the findings from US Sanctuary Schools. This has been particularly evident at our Geelong school.

MacKillop Education and the Sanctuary Institute Australia are committed to furthering the evidence base for RELATE including a current research study through Monash University.

RELATE is implemented through a multi-tiered prevention system of support, professional learning for all staff members and a universal Social and Emotional curriculum for all students and families.

The RELATE whole school culture change is achieved through a process of professional learning and consultation services. These services are delivered by an experienced Education Consultant, who is part of the Sanctuary Institute Australia Faculty. Schools benefit from this wealth of trauma–informed, education knowledge and expertise.

One of our Sanctuary Institute Education Consultants can visit your school to introduce the Model.

Alternatively, you can attend one of our RELATE Professional Learning Seminars. These seminars will give educators greater insight into the components of the model. Seminars are held in every State and Territory. Please contact us to find out when the next Seminar is near you.

MacKillop has two specialist schools (Geelong and Maidstone in Melbourne’s west) which use the RELATE model. Enrolment referrals are accepted from the student’s school, Department of Education, Catholic Education Office, Department of Health and Human Services, mental health services and families.

Absolutely! Schools connected by geographic location, demographics, culture or religious backgrounds may collaborate to improve their wellbeing and learning cultures, pool resources and share expertise to ensure a consistent, trauma-informed philosophy and practices are established and sustained across multiple education sites.

Talk to us to discuss how RELATE can be implemented across a network.