Understand how effective social-emotional learning can improve pupil wellbeing, reduce behavioural issues and improve pupil outcomes, with Jo Chadwick.

The classroom is the place where children learn to be social beings. A microcosm of society, where they meet new people, adapt to new rules and learn to be a part of something other than their family. However, in a landscape where schools are at breaking point, with an increasing number of teaching staff leaving or planning to leave the profession and teachers suffering from exhaustion and burnout from taking on the alarming increase in mental health and wellbeing issues among children from the early years, it’s becoming an overwhelming task.

An increasing number of schools are reporting excessive teaching time is being diverted to work with children who are dysregulated, have behavioural issues, anxiety and possible Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). Budget cuts have in many cases reduced or removed the Teaching Assistant support line, and teachers have more to manage than ever before, including issues that simply most are not trained to handle.

What can be done to lighten the load?

It’s now been proven that when children have strong support in their social-emotional learning, many of the additional needs placed on teaching staff are reduced. Strong Social Emotional and Mental Health (SEMH) programmes lead to a greater sense of shared values, empathy and understanding, leading to better teamwork, safety in self-expression, self-regulation and peer support. This frees up teachers to teach, increases pupils’ readiness to learn, and has a positive impact on academic success.

In fact, from schools that we are currently working with, we’re even seeing a reduction in concern logs. As a result of children learning how to better understand their feelings and express them and share them with each other, there is a reduction in conflict and behavioural issues. Fewer problems mean fewer interventions needed and less time spent completing forms! Therefore, teachers’ valuable time can be used as intended; for teaching, supporting and nurturing their pupils’ sense of wellbeing and their love of learning and academic development.

Prevention over intervention

Developing children’s life skills and character skills from the earliest age is key, so that the transition through adolescence is smoother and the sense of self is stronger. Equipping them with a deeper understanding and acceptance of themselves, and others will help them develop more open relationships and connections. Interoception is key – teaching children how to physically identify their feelings. It’s a starting point in understanding themselves, and how their feelings can affect their thoughts and, in turn, their actions and behaviours.

Giving children the skills to identify their feelings and the language to express themselves fully, helps furnish them with the ability to not only self-regulate but to have empathy for others, and be able to provide support to peers from an early age. With increased self-awareness and understanding, they can better negotiate and resolve conflict, be more optimistic and self-confident, and feel equipped to face pressures and challenges without fear.

These lessons or skills are arguably even more important in child development than literacy or maths. They are the skills that humanity needs to function, that communities need to flourish and that individuals need to thrive.

10 minutes matter

Teachers are already at breaking point, and complex programmes are simply not workable in today’s age. Small daily steps make all the difference. With just 10 minutes a day focused on social and emotional mental health and wellbeing, positive results will be noticeable in a matter of weeks.

It doesn’t need to be complicated!

From exploring a feeling of the week, to including feeling check-ins into the day, to using daily meditations or affirmations within the morning registration period, to daily journalling after lunch, there are so many ways to bring bite-sized, feelgood, beneficial Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and wellbeing sessions into the day. Using registration time, down time, circle time and queuing time to bring SEL into the day keeps a flow of connection continually open.

Consider ways to onboard parents into your social and emotional learning. Set role play activities for homework, and challenges for the family.

Fit for purpose

There are many tools and strategies that schools can employ or develop, and there are also programmes and training available from educational suppliers. We know that schools need all the support they can get, so we have developed our programmes on the back of decades of scientific research and with the input of experts, therapists, parents, teachers and children.

It is key for all schools to recognise that these kinds of programmes are best when implemented across the entire school, made part of the fabric of the school community, and rooted into parents, children, teaching and support staff alike. Schools should look for programmes that are ready to go; easy to adapt to fit into the curriculum; that are modular, flexible and, above all, simple for teaching staff to deliver.

Don’t forget to evaluate the successes of the programmes you consider. Ask educational suppliers to provide testimonials and whether you can be connected to other schools that are running the same programme.

Above all else, ensure that you comprehensively survey staff and pupils before starting new programmes to embed wellbeing into the heart of your community so that you have the ability to evaluate and measure success and include everyone on the journey.


  • Jo Chadwick

    With a background in brand marketing, strategy and copywriting, Jo leads the creative development and strategy for The Happy Confident Company. She is passionate about developing best-in-class programmes and products that support parents and teachers to help all children thrive.
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