Leveraging Data to Support Young People’s Education and Wellbeing

Harmonising education and student wellbeing data for child and youth research
Six kids with tablets sitting in a circle on a colourful carpet around an adult, smiling
Who will benefit
Peak bodies, research organisations, data analysts, infrastructure providers, governments (state/territory and federal)

The Challenge

State and territory education departments hold rich information about various aspects of Australian students, including: 

  • socioeconomic, demographic, and cultural backgrounds 
  • enrolment and attendance 
  • behaviour management 
  • wellbeing and engagement 
  • disability 
  • access to psycho-social services 
  • academic achievement. 

But while these data have a great potential to facilitate research, they are held in numerous custom-made databases that do not talk to each other, varying in terms of the content, detail, quality and governance. This makes it difficult for researchers to tap into them. In fact, with the metadata often missing, many researchers would not know the data exist in the first place. A curated data asset is needed to understand how our education system is performing and evaluate the efficiency of mental health interventions delivered at schools.

The Response

This project created an enduring database linking education and wellbeing data from multiple databases, covering such areas as enrollment, attendance, behaviour management, academic achievement, and student wellbeing. Over time, this will paint a fuller picture of the students’ journey throughout their school life. A collaborative, coordinated approach will maximise the comparability and use of all these data from different states and territories.

The project involved:

State-held data was assessed for their quality, the public interest in them, and their utility. A data harmonisation crosswalk document will be created from the metadata, and a FAIR data guideline implementation plan will be developed.

The data harmonisation crosswalk document was used for consultation with research advisory groups and end users. Key variables were selected, and potential harmonisation issues will be identified.

Partners curated their datasets in line with the final harmonisation document. The datasets were then transferred to the SA Department for Education to be cleaned and merged. Data access mechanisms will be finalised and tested.

Data is accessible to researchers via the Fraser Mustard Centre / SA Department for Education webpage in line with the FAIR guidelines. Metadata/data dictionary information is now available, and project outcomes are being tracked.

The Outcomes

The project has delivered a dataset containing deidentified and aggregated linked student wellbeing data collected between 2014 and 2022 across South Australia, Tasmania, and the Australian Capital Territory. Data is from students from Years 4 to 12. The dataset is accessible via the UniSA Research Data Access Portal.

The project has delivered:

  • linkage of wellbeing data – with the vital linkage of mental health and wellbeing data, a framework will be created for future data linkage and longitudinal assessments of mental health in children will be possible
  • improvements to research – outcome tracking – the inclusion of research-outcome tracking will allow better understanding of how researchers are accessing, using, and disseminating the data assets
  • pathways to future success – this project will pave the way for future data linkage among partner organisations, greatly improving the landscape of Australian data and research.

Ultimately, this project will enable high quality, policy-relevant research on young people’s wellbeing and engagement during their schooling years by combining existing wellbeing and engagement data with demographic, attendance, and NAPLAN data. This will be significant to young people’s education outcomes, adult outcomes, and the future of Australia’s economy.

Who Will Benefit

This project will benefit:

  • peak bodies
  • research organisations
  • data analysts
  • infrastructure providers
  • governments (state/territory and federal).

The Partners

  • SA Department for Education
  • Tasmanian Department for Education, Children and Young People
  • ACT Education Directorate
  • National Schools Interoperability Program
  • Education Services Australia
  • University of South Australia

Further Resources

The dataset is also accessible via ARDC Research Data Australia.

For more information, please read about the Wellbeing and Engagement Collection (WEC) and the Wellbeing and Engagement Census.

You can also view:

Contact the ARDC

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March 2021 to September 2023

Current Phase


ARDC Co-investment


Project lead

University of South Australia