When he took over as principal at Mount Barker High School nine years ago, Warren Symonds was confronted with a school in crisis – it needed a fresh injection of confidence and success.

The Adelaide Hills school was no longer held in high esteem by its community, and its students’ achievements and sense of wellbeing showed they were significantly disengaged and not reaching their potential.

Warren’s solution was to embed the philosophy and practice of positive psychology across the school, with advice and guidance from its creator, Professor Martin Seligman.

Making wellbeing central to teaching and learning has dramatically lifted both academic achievement and engagement in learning. The school’s rate of South Australian Certificate of Education (SACE) completions rose from 75 per cent in 2012 to 100 per cent in 2019.

Over that time, Year 8 enrolments have also doubled, NAPLAN results improved, and student wellbeing has shown a significant lift, as have school climate and connectedness. Teachers are happier too, with a rise in the number of staff considered to be flourishing.

Recognised as leaders in Positive Education, Warren and his Mount Barker staff have provided professional learning to over 315 teachers throughout SA, ACT and WA.