From wellbeing comes a wellspring of student potential.


‘Young people’s wellbeing is enhanced when their hearts and minds are engaged’ (Catholic Education Melbourne, Horizons of Hope: Wellbeing in a Catholic School).


Wellbeing. It’s a word that is used a lot and it’s something we all desire for ourselves, our children and each other.


But what does wellbeing look like?


How does it come to be?


What are the causes and conditions that lead to student wellbeing and, in turn, maximise learning and long-term development potential?


Horizons of Hope and our pastoral care policy certainly go a long way to ensure an evidence-based education framework. Nevertheless, those three questions kept nagging at us in Student Wellbeing, Catholic Education Melbourne. We needed to explicitly articulate what wellbeing is in a language we could all understand and share.


The great challenge was to translate a multifaceted and complex concept into an overarching approach that identified key elements of effective wellbeing practice in Catholic schools. Not surprisingly, it was a long time in development from inception in 2016 to launch in mid-2018.


Many consultation sessions were held – gathering collective wisdom from teachers, Catholic Education Melbourne staff and experts in the field – in order to produce what is now considered a seminal document, eXcel: Wellbeing for learning. It offers Catholic schools a guide to unpacking the dimensions that enable and inspire children and young people’s wellbeing and learning.


These intersecting dimensions are presented in eXcel as four elements and articulated as follows:

  • enable: safe, inclusive and respectful environments
  • connect: nurturing, collaborative and authentic relationships
  • engage: motivated, empowered and adaptable learners
  • learn: explicit, purposeful and innovative teaching.


To demonstrate the precision of these four parts of a holistic approach to wellbeing, we chose the first letter of each word to form the acronym ‘eXcel’. This concept captures the essence of ‘being the best we can be’ with God’s grace.


eXcel is not prescriptive. Its aim is to encourage schools to reflect on the four dimensions when identifying what’s working and what’s not working well. More specifically, eXcel is a guide for:

  • promoting common understanding
  • enabling consistent approaches
  • developing shared commitment
  • inspiring rigorous conversation
  • encouraging deep reflection
  • informing innovative action.


In short, eXcel is designed to enable schools to own these aims in creating a holistic learning environment for body, mind, heart and soul.


These four pillars of wellbeing not only draw on evidence-based research from the World Health Organization that identifies positive mood, attitude, resilience and satisfaction with self as requirements for engaged and successful learners. They also depend on the faith dimension of Horizons of Hope that recognises ‘a positive sense of wellbeing supports a base for rich learning that enables young people to flourish’ (p. 3). eXcel broadens this perspective by positioning school as a contributing member of the wider community of family, parish and society.


Since eXcel launched, there’s been such tremendous feedback from Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Melbourne and around the country. eXcel is now an important platform for enabling students to develop as optimistic, resilient young people of faith who can contribute to and enrich the world around them.