Judith Harwood, senior regional adviser on the secondary strategy for school improvement, reports on the breadth of the pilot work being undertaken in secondary schools to promote Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning (SEAL).

The pilot programme to develop social, emotional and behavioural skills  in secondary schools started in the summer of 2005, just as the primary programme to develop Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning (SEAL) drew to an end and began national dissemination.

Six very different local authorities and 54 schools are involved in developing the programme, which is intended to contribute to a range of whole-school improvement priorities.

Support

Participating schools and local authorities have received support in:

  • planning the implementation of SEAL
  • leadership and management of the programme
  • suggestions for incorporating social, emotional and behavioural skills into teaching and learning plans.

Development is supported through the partnership between a local authority consultant and schools. We have also highlighted a multi-agency approach, which draws together personnel such as:

  • educational psychologists
  • behaviour support teams
  • emotional health and wellbeing consultants
  • staff from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).

Programme aims

The programme aims to:

  • complement, consolidate and strengthen good practice in secondary schools
  • build on emerging links between emotional wellbeing and effective learning
  • draw on work that schools will have undertaken through previous professional development.

Our focus is on staff development in the five domains of social, emotional and behavioural skills already identified in the SEAL programme:

  • self-awareness
  • self-regulation
  • motivation
  • empathy
  • social skills.

Developing skills

The programme includes practical exercises and suggestions to help pupils and staff move through the stages of skills development: identification; modelling; coaching; feedback; practice; reflection; consolidation; internalisation; generalisation.

The intention is to provide pupils and staff with the skills to take more control of their lives by being able to do things differently, if they choose to, beyond not just knowing why they should.

The model of skills being developed in this programme is one that sees skills as grounded in people’s understandings, values, and attitudes. This process of skills development is explored with staff and pupils in order to achieve a more flexible repertoire of skills and acquire skills seen as relevant and useful.

Strategies

Work on skills development is perceived as permeating all aspects of school life. Although materials are being established for PSHE and tutorial work, substantial work is also being developed within the subject-based curriculum. Social, emotional and behavioural skills can be developed through core and foundation subjects.

The programme is intended to help school staff apply the same standards in developing these skills as they have when engaging pupils in subject-based learning, and to tackle this skill development with the same rigour and high expectations.

One example is the way in which the programme encourages staff and pupils to take greater risks. We are exploring a move towards lessons where pupils can:

  • manage their own learning more
  • are not afraid to get things wrong
  • assess themselves and their peers with confidence
  • manage emotions productively.

Activities and resources are being developed that prompt staff to teach explicitly the skills needed for better group work and active listening.

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