Adolescence is a pivotal stage in a young woman's life, marked by self-discovery, growth, and the development of self-esteem. At Toorak College, we understand the unique challenges that adolescent girls face during this critical period. Our commitment to nurturing their self-esteem goes beyond academics; it's about building strong, confident, and empowered young women. Self esteem is an extremely important topic within girls schools given the ongoing decline in wellbeing amongst adolescents in Australia. In a recent article published by The Age, data shows that nearly 40 percent of 16 to 24 year-olds reported having a mental health disorder between 2020 and 22. Further research conducted by Garnita Pleas (2022), shows educators can play a vital role in the development of girls' self esteem & wellbeing. Four key themes were identified in this research which showed different ways educators can successfully support adolescent girls' development of self esteem.

Building Relationships through Communication

The first theme observed by Pleas (2022) was the importance of ‘building relationships through communication’. Effective communication is the cornerstone of healthy relationships and self-esteem development. At Toorak College, we prioritise open and honest communication between teachers, students, and parents. We believe that when girls feel heard and understood, they are more likely to develop a positive self-image leading to an increase in academic and social engagement and overall wellbeing. Our whole school curriculum is purposeful in its design to provide opportunities where students can build connections and a vast support network. In addition to our Pastoral Care structure of Tutors, Heads of Year, Growth Mentors and the Wellbeing Leadership team, students participate in a program called Flourishing. This program provides each student with one-on-one mentoring sessions biannually with the content of this session driven by the student. Student agency is important when it comes to building meaningful relationships, especially as our girls grow into young adults. For that reason, our senior girls select their own staff mentor for these sessions.

Another crucial relationship that we foster here at Toorak College is a strong partnership with parents and guardians. Through regular and open communication with families, we are able to develop strengthened relationships, focused on providing the best experience for our students.

Empowering Girls with Affirmations, Inspiration, Empathy, and Compassion

The second theme identified by Pleas (2022) focused on empowering girls through affirmations, inspiration, empathy and compassion. Self-esteem is deeply intertwined with a sense of self-worth and empowerment. We employ various strategies to empower our students and help them recognise their strengths.

The first step in the Toorak College design thinking process is ‘empathise’. How do you understand what motivates others, what thoughts, feelings and emotions they may be experiencing and why? The meaning of empathy and how to show compassion is explicitly taught as a strength in the Agile Learning program. It is the foundation for the direction of student design projects along with the driving force behind the service activities students choose to engage in. For our students experiencing first hand the impact their positive actions can have on another, is powerful and inspires them to continue exploring future paths that are both fulfilling as well as productive.

Providing Growth Opportunities through Challenges

Pleas (2022) identified that helping adolescent girls through tumultuous times, filled with personal, academic, and social challenges can improve their self-esteem. At Toorak College we are dedicated to helping girls navigate these difficulties with confidence and resilience. The term challenge alone can often be associated with a negative connotation, perhaps something that will be difficult and unfulfilling. In reality, challenging ourselves and stretching beyond our capabilities is how we grow and develop as individuals. At Toorak College we emphasise and embed the language of growth and development in all our Personal Growth programs. At its core it focuses on attitudes, behaviours and capacities needed to thrive now and in the future. We see value in helping our students to flip the narrative around difficult and unfamiliar situations so that they develop an attitude that has them comfortable in a challenging space because challenges provide opportunities for growth. In order to do this well, we focus on helping students identify the right amount of stretch for them to build their capacities while providing that safety net to catch them through our supportive and connected school culture.

Encouragement of Leadership and Role Modelling

Teachers play an important role in influencing our students for the better by providing real-life examples of leadership in action, and serve as a source of inspiration, guidance and motivation for aspiring leaders. At Toorak College, we believe that every girl has the potential to be a leader and we actively foster leadership qualities so all our students develop the mindset needed to confidently make a positive impact within the community. We recognise that leadership and positive influence comes in many forms and we encourage students to practise and build on their skills through the many opportunities offered to them. Our curriculum design and teaching practices promotes this through our Personal Growth and Empower programs which include mentorship and coaching, workshops, clubs, sports, community partnership programs and school leadership opportunities at all year levels.

Fostering self-esteem in adolescent girls is a multifaceted process that requires a supportive and nurturing environment. At Toorak College, we are dedicated to providing just that. Through effective communication, empowerment strategies, support through challenges, and encouragement of leadership, we help our students build the self-esteem they need to succeed in all aspects of life.

To find out more about our unique Senior School offerings and approach to wellbeing, please visit our website.

Heffernan, W.T., Madeleine (2023). The teens are in trouble: How Victorian children are faring after lockdowns. [online] The Age. Available at: [Accessed 29 Nov. 2023].

‌November 3 and Webinar, 9:30 am-10:30 am L. (n.d.). Supporting adolescent middle school girls’ self-esteem: Interventions to consider (Pleas, 2022). [online] Alliance of Girls’ Schools Australasia. Available at: [Accessed 29 Nov. 2023].

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