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About the census

South Australia’s Department for Education, has developed the Wellbeing and Engagement Census (WEC), a data collection system that measures the wellbeing and engagement of every student (age 9 to 18) across the government and private education systems.

The Wellbeing and Engagement Census (WEC) utilises a self-report survey to collect information directly from students in year levels 4 to 12 (age 9 to 18) about non-academic factors relevant to learning, engagement and participation.

The WEC is a population level tool which provides a snapshot of student wellbeing in populations or groups of children. While individual students complete the survey, the results are only ever reported for groups of students and are never used to evaluate individual students, nor rank teachers, schools or school districts. 

The WEC gives schools, communities, education systems and governments an insight into what needs to occur to ensure students experience success and are provided with resources and opportunities to reach their full potential.

The survey

The survey asks young people about how they think and feel about their experiences both inside and outside of school. The survey measures a range of different skills and capabilities that are important for student’s wellbeing, health, learning, school success, education and employment outcomes.

The scales selected for inclusion meet accepted scientific criteria, including the predictive power to later educational and wellbeing outcomes and the extent to which the skills, habits, aptitudes or learnings comprising the scale can be modified by the actions of parents, families and/or educators. Students have also communicated that the scales included align with their views on what wellbeing means to them. 

Domains measured


Sub-domain (scale)

Social and Emotional Wellbeing

Happiness, optimism, life satisfaction, perseverance, emotion regulation, sadness, worries

Relationships and learning in school

Connectedness to adults at school, emotional engagement with teacher, school belonging/climate, peer belonging, friendship intimacy, cognitive engagement, academic self-concept, engagement (flow), bullying (cyber, physical, social, verbal)

Physical Health, lifestyle and after school activities

Physical health, body image, nutrition, sleep, Involvement in activities after school

More items can be included


The wellbeing and engagement census fact sheet (PDF 177KB) has more information.

While academic achievement is important, a focus on student wellbeing is equally imperative. The twin strands of wellbeing and academics complement one another. Focussing on building student wellbeing, through building good relationships with others, perseverance, sleep and nutrition have shown to positively contribute to academic achievement. Conversely, academic achievement contributes to wellbeing by increasing engagement, cultivating a sense of purpose and striving to achieve goals. 

In developing the WEC, we compiled a group of internationally valid and reliable items and scales, adapting the items to suit the cultural needs, feelings and beliefs of students. Following this, we further refined the instrument through ethically approved research trials with students. We worked in conjunction with schools and students to refine the census, incorporating feedback on the suitability and ease in responding to the items. 

Psychometric analyses of the scales have occurred following the trial and throughout the use of the WEC. These reviews indicate whether the items and scales are working and if they lend themselves to detecting change over time (both improvements and declines). We have taken an approach of continuous improvement with the WEC where problematic scales and items have been removed, and new scales have been added to meet the needs of our various stakeholders, and keep up with emerging trends in the student wellbeing, education and positive psychology fields.

How the data is collected

The survey is undertaken by students at participating schools during school hours and takes between 25 to 45 minutes to complete (depending on student’s reading comprehension). The survey is administered online.

Students complete the survey as a class in the presence of their teacher/survey administrator. Teachers are responsible for identifying any students who may have learning difficulties or not have a sufficient level of English to participate in the survey.

Survey administration for teachers

  1. Schools/teachers are required to send a letter to all parents in advance of the survey period, informing them about the survey and providing them an opportunity to opt out their child. Students also have an opportunity to opt out of the survey prior to, or during the survey collection.   
  2. Survey administrators/teachers are required to read the instructions on administering the survey to students. Survey instructions will be sent to the school’s survey administrator before the survey period. The instructions contain detailed information on conducting the survey.

Survey results

On completion of the survey, student responses are cleaned and coded. Student responses are then aggregated and transmitted to customised school reports, built in response to the needs of stakeholders. The school reports provide information to educators to help them understand:

  • What young people at the school think about their wellbeing
  • The strengths of the students and the school and how these might be built upon
  • Issues or challenges that may warrant further investigation and a response.

Within these reports, reports group students by class, year level, gender at the school. No individual students are identified. 

See the sample school report (PDF 955KB) for an example of how the survey results can be presented. 

Wellbeing and Engagement Census Team

Phone: +618 8226 0452
              +61 427 193 111
Email: Education.WEC@sa.gov.au