Holy Cross Primary School opened its doors for the first time in 2021, with 140 students and 19 staff. In the past two years, the school population has grown rapidly to over 260 students.

With a brand-new school and a new team all starting at the same time, Holy Cross had a unique opportunity: a chance to build school culture from scratch and make intentional decisions on what that would look like.

In the 12 months of planning before Holy Cross opened, Principal Mark Miatello undertook a search for an education and wellbeing framework and was recommended the ReLATE model.

An aligned vision

Mark had a strong vision for Holy Cross and it was important that any education and wellbeing model work alongside it.

“We have our motto of love, hope and unity and that fits in very nicely with the ReLATE four foundational concepts. This year we've been able to unpack those four foundational concepts and align them with our vision and our mission,” says Mark Miatello, Principal of Holy Cross Catholic Primary School.

The ReLATE model, developed by The MacKillop Institute, reframes learning and teaching environments by creating a whole-of-school culture that focuses on improved teaching and student wellbeing. The four foundational concepts of the ReLATE model are safety, counter stress school environments, enhanced teaching and learning and whole school sustainable change.

Deputy Principal Gemma Gowland found that the ReLATE model could be adapted to suit their unique school community.

"We've been able to take learnings away from ReLATE and apply them to our own context and vision. We don't see our school vision and ReLATE as separate,"

Deputy Principal Gemma Gowland


Prioritising safety

Safety has always been a priority at Holy Cross School, but the ReLATE model has helped Holy Cross to embed safety into their everyday practices.

“Safety is a huge priority and that was always the case. But we've been able to look at the ReLATE framework to help us embed that element of safety into our everyday being,” says Gemma.

“The psychological safety of our staff and students is paramount. This includes the physical safety, the emotional safety, and the spiritual safety.”

“Teachers need to feel safe. They need to have an environment that is organised, structured, and has routine. They need to know that their wellbeing is important.”

Putting the work in

Since implementing the ReLATE model, the assessment data on Holy Cross School shows an increase in staff confidence delivering trauma-informed education, and an increase in the perception of system and personal support.

Mark and Gemma are honest about the work required to see the benefits of the ReLATE model.

“My experience has been that sometimes you take part in professional development and then you expect things to change overnight without actively doing anything about it,” says Gemma.

Articulating the link back to ReLATE concepts when incidents happen has been key in making ReLATE part of the Holy Cross school culture.

“To build culture, you have to keep having the conversations and you must keep living out the concepts. We make that an explicit part of our routine. I think you need patience, resilience, and time,” says Mark.

“Any advice that we would give to other schools is that you have to align ReLATE to your vision and your values and you have to action it,” says Gemma.

“I would say that it's embedded here, now. You can feel it, you witness it, you can see it, you can hear it.”

The ReLATE model
Reframing Learning and Teaching Environments (ReLATE) is a research and trauma-informed education model available to all schools.