What is School Connectedness

School connectedness is about creating a school community where everyone feels safe, seen, heard, supported, significant and cared for (BC School Based Mental Health Coalition, 2013). The focus in school connectedness is on building strong, positive relationships: among students, between students and school staff; between school staff, families and the larger community. The presence of caring relationships in schools — the heart of school connectedness — is increasingly recognized as a vital component of successful schools. The research is strong and consistent; students who feel connected to school do better academically and are healthier.

Is School Connectedness the Same as Positive Mental Health? School connectedness is one of a number of keys concepts that describes the perspectives and practices for promoting of positive mental health among children and youth.

Positive mental health is “the capacity of each and all of us to feel, think, and act in ways that enhance our ability to enjoy life and deal with the challenges we face. It is a positive sense of emotional and spiritual wellbeing that respects the importance of culture, equity, social justice, interconnections and personal dignity” (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2006).

School connectedness, like social-emotional learning, mental fitness, and strength-based perspectives, is an approach used to support and promote positive mental health in children and youth. While each of these approaches is slightly different; they have much in common and overlap with one another. They work side-by-side, each strengthening the impact of the others and all contributing to the wellbeing of children and youth. To learn more about these different approaches, see Schools as a Setting for Positive Mental Health: Better Practices and Perspectives. To learn how to take action on positive mental health at your school, see the JCSH Positive Mental Health Toolkit.

Why Do We Care About School Connectedness?

Research consistently shows that high levels of school connectedness are associated with better learning outcomes and better health outcomes for children and youth.



While the positive impacts of school connectedness are greatest on the students involved, here is a spill-over effect on our communities and society. When school connectedness is increased, graduation rates do too, which means we all benefit.

Societal Benefits of School Connectedness


  • Wages
  • Tax revenue & GDP
  • Life expectancy


  • Social assistance costs
  • Healthcare costs
  • Substance use
  • Crime and incarceration rates

For a more detailed look at the evidence on school connectedness, see School Connectedness: What Does the Evidence Say.

Six Strategies for Fostering School Connectedness In Practice

In June 2014 four schools and two school districts were awarded School Connectedness grants in recognition of the work they are doing to support school connectedness. The selected schools and school districts reflected on their school connectedness practice and developed a video to help share their experience with other school communities. See the videos below in the “Success Stories” section.

Hear the School Connectedness grantees discuss how they use the Six Strategies for Fostering School Connectedness in their schools and districts (video, 48 minutes, 2015)


Effective Strategies for Fostering School Connectedness

The following six strategies had proven effective in increasing the extent to which students feel connected to school. These strategies are not prescriptive; they simply provide the guideposts for schools and districts as they take action on school connectedness.1

1. Adapted from: CDC’s Fostering School Connectedness: Strategies for Increasing Protective Factors for Youth; Learning Leadership OECD

  • Provide professional learning and support for teachers and other school staff to enable them to meet the diverse cognitive, emotional, and social needs of children and adolescents.
  • School Leadership at all levels (principal, teacher, district) establishes structures and decision-making processes that facilitate student, family, and community engagement, academic achievement, and staff empowerment.
  • Create trusting and caring relationships that promote open communication among administrators, teachers, staff, students, families, and communities.
  • Provide education and opportunities to enable families to be actively involved in their children’s academic and school life.
  • Use effective teaching and learning methods & classroom management techniques to foster a positive learning environment.
  • Learning is social: Provide students with emotional and social skills necessary to be actively engaged in school.
Getting Started
  • JCSH Positive Mental Health Toolkit (interactive eBook with videos and downloadable materials, 2013). The toolkit is meant build knowledge, to facilitate a shift in practice, and to set in motion a process for engaging school and community strengths in fostering the positive growth and development of children and youth..
Taking Action
Social-Emotional Learning

Dr. Jack Miller

Dr. Kimberly Schonert-Reichl

Dr. Stuart Shanker

Dr. Daniel Siegel

  • The Teenage Brain and how compassion and empathy can be cultivated during the teenage years (video, 14 minutes, 2014).
Caring Relationships

Dr. Gordon Neufeld 

Family and Community Involvement

Dr. Mark Greenberg

Teaching and Learning and Classroom Management Practices
Professional Learning
School Leadership
Supporting Research Summaries