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Supporting Safe, Caring
and Inclusive Schools

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The Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) recognizes the importance of students’ social, emotional and physical health and well-being and how this impacts them developing  stronger connections to school and a greater sense of belonging with the ultimate goal of  students achieving academic success. Being part of an equitable, inclusive and accessible school environment supports WRDSB students to reach their full potential. 


In order to better understand students’ sense of belonging at school, health and well-being, WRDSB conducted the Safe, Caring and Inclusive School Survey for students in Grades 4-12 in November 2022. This survey is confidential, anonymous and only aggregated results were shared with schools. The results for each school are reviewed independently, and not compared, as each school community operates with its own unique sets of strengths and challenges. 


Using the Middle Years Development Instrument (MDI) as our survey, the students were asked about their:

  • Social and emotional development, such as self-esteem, optimism, happiness and empathy

  • Feelings of connectedness to school, family, friends, and communities

  • School experiences

  • Physical health and well-being

  • Time use after school hours, as well as students’ wishes for after-school time


What WRDSB students shared

One of the six WRDSB strategic directions is to ensure that: “Every student and staff member will learn and work in environments that engage them and support their mental health and well-being.”


In the Mental health, well-being and engagement section of the Board Improvement and Equity Plan (BIEP), three of the indicators we tracked in 2022-2023 were based on the Safe, Caring and Inclusive School Survey.


Of the total number of respondents, 71% of students in Grades 4-6, 49% of students in Grades 7-8 and 40% of students in Grades 9-12 indicated they “agree a little” or “agree a lot” to the statement: “I feel like I am important to this school”.


The MDI Well-being Index consists of measures relating to children’s physical health and social and emotional development that are of importance during the middle years: Optimism, Happiness, Self-Esteem, Absence of Sadness and General Health. On the MDI, a “high well-being” categorization represents students who reported positive responses on at least 4 of the 5 measures and no low range scores.


The results from the survey indicated the percentage of students with high well-being as:

  • Grade 4-6: 34%

  • Grade 7-8: 26%

  • Grade 9-12: 20%

Read the Board Improvement and Equity Plan (BIEP) for 2022-23 for additional updates from the Safe, Caring and Inclusive School Survey.

Building on what we have learned

Based on the results from the survey, we know we have to continue working toward providing all students with learning environments that engage them and support their mental health and well-being. We have strategies in place to support this work, including providing job-embedded learning for principals and vice-principals with a focus on sovereignty affirming and equity competencies. We are also working with school administrators and educators on a learning series on Understanding Contemporary First Nations, Métis and Inuit Voices Studies course, and Dismantling Anti-Black Racism.


Some of the other ways we are supporting capacity building for administrators and educators to improve student success and well-being:


  • Provided educator learning series to support the implementation of the Grade 11 First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Voices as the Grade 11 English course in all WRDSB secondary schools.

  • Supported implementation of school based groups (e.g., Affinity Groups, GSAs, Student well-being teams).

  • Hosted student conferences (e.g., Black Brilliance).

  • Developed and launched a system campaign to address mental health.

  • Developed community engagement tables that include grass root community organizations to participate in wraparound support for students.

  • Delivered in class presentations on social-emotional learning and mental health strategies.

  • Hosted “lunch and learns” for parents, caregivers and families.

  • Provided professional learning for all administrators and educators with a focus on trauma informed practices.


The results of the survey are used at the Board and school levels to inform activities to enhance school engagement, positive learning experiences and academic success.

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Supporting Students’ Mental Health and Well-being

All WRDSB Students deserve to feel safe in an inclusive and welcoming school environment where they can show up as their true selves. We know the needs of each student differs and we must work together with parents, caregivers, families and community members to help all students reach their full potential.

Learn more about how to support students’ mental health and well-being. Parents and caregivers are also encouraged to reach out to their child’s school for additional support, information and resources.

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