Research School Network: Embedding Zones of Regulation: An Implementation Journey A Case Study of a School’s Approach to Developing Social and Emotional Learning Through Zones of Regulation.


Embedding Zones of Regulation: An Implementation Journey

A Case Study of a School’s Approach to Developing Social and Emotional Learning Through Zones of Regulation.

by Derby Research School
on the

K Pat 01

Katie Pattinson

Derby RS ELE, Deputy Director of Institute, Academy Transformation Trust

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Laura Niemczyk

Laura Niemczyk

Principal and Trust EYFS Lead, Academy Transformation Trust

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Our Journey

How it all began…

Sun Academy, Bradwell is a single form Primary Academy in the Academy Transformation Trust family; we embarked upon developing our existing Learning Behaviours’ journey focusing on embedding Zones of Regulation in September 2023 in response to recognising an increasing number of children with varying SEND needs. Through exploring the Improving Social and Emotional Learning in Primary Schools Guidance Report we recognised that There is extensive evidence associating childhood social and emotional skills with improved outcomes at school and in later life… good social and emotional skills — including self-regulation, self-awareness, and social skills — developed by the age of ten, are predictors of a range of adult outcomes (age 42), such as life satisfaction and wellbeing, labour market success, and good overall health” and felt that this was a hugely appropriate and necessary area of focus for us across our next improvement cycle.

We began our approach using the EEF SEL Audit tool, exploring and unpicking the big questions’ as an Academy Leadership Team in the first instance, and later as a whole school. Our responses to the big questions’ formed the basis of our Implementation plan and exposed the Active Ingredients for our Zones of Regulation approach. We explored each aspect of the SEL Audit tool in turn, firstly focusing on Curriculum’, followed by Everyday Teaching’ and Whole School Ethos and Activities.’ As a team we found that by auditing and interrogating our existing practices in this way we were able to clearly codify our approach moving forward, setting out realistic and achievable milestones in line with the EEF Implementation Guidance Report.

Audit Tool

Professional Development

Our phased approach to implementing Zones of Regulation’ began with professional development activities for all of our teaching staff and support colleagues. Our approach to implementing any change or iteration always begins with us re-visiting the EEF Effective PD mechanisms. We worked collaboratively with Phase leaders and crafted an Academy Zones of Regulation’ PD Curriculum appropriate for all colleagues, ensuring that we utilised a balanced design.’ We initially began with evidence-informed staff Professional development sessions, focusing upon the explicit teaching and modelling of self and co-regulation. This modelling, scripting and use of Deliberate Practice activities for all colleagues really supported us in considering what Recommendation 2: Integrate and model SEL skills through everyday teaching would look like here at Sun Academy. We really explored the

guidance to: Model the social and emotional behaviours you want children to adopt in granular specificity – what would this look like for all of our pupils at Sun Academy and how would it respond to the context-specific aspects of our Academy?

Through our ongoing staff Professional Development opportunities we have continued to use Deliberate Practice and scripting activities to support codification and consistency of approach. We know that our routines and predictability is hugely beneficial for our pupils; they know that our expectations of and support for their regulation will be enacted in consistent ways, irrespective of which adult in school they seek support from. We have embedded Regulation check-in activities’ throughout our Academy day. These have had significant impact for us already and is something that we’re really proud of, in a recent Safeguarding audit the visiting team commented that Zones of regulation is being effectively implemented. Pupils say this is helping them to understand their feelings and express their worries more regularly. They say they know that staff will always follow up when they place their name card on the chart at the entrance to a classroom. The impact of zones of regulation could be seen on one child who had self-regulated through using his zones bespoke strategies.”

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Effective Professional Development Guidance Report

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Meet and Greet Zones of Regulation Check-ins take place at every classroom every morning. This activity ensures that all pupils can gain adult support for any co-regulation requirements that they may have before the Academy day begins.

Explicit Modelling

Following our initial Staff Professional Development session we made the decision to devote a significant proportion of time to explicitly teach our pupils a range of [SEL] strategies to teach key skills, both in dedicated time, and in everyday teaching,’ in line with Recommendation 1. This conscious decision was designed to provide scaffolding and support for pupils; allowing them to feel

more confident and articulate when it came to expressing and managing their self-regulation activities (both inside and outside of the classroom.) We use daily examples and celebrate our successes to ensure that our shared aims and commitment to effective implementation has remained a high level of focus for our staff and children alike.

Our children are moving through co-regulation to be able to manage their own self-regulation activities effectively. In turn, they are also becoming more confident and adept at selecting appropriate self-regulation strategies at the required times. For some pupils, their self-regulation may be accessed through their own individual Zone of Regulation Toolkits” or they may engage with appropriate activities through the support of a Teaching Assistant or additional trusted adult. The self-regulation activities are tailored to individual pupils; the approach that they take may look different for our EYFS pupils than for our KS2 pupils, but our approach to consistent and explicit staff-modelling of the strategies we want pupils to utilise remains the same.

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Current Impact

As we move further through our implementation plan from Early Stages’ to Developed Practice’ we are noticing that staff are utilising a greater number of non-verbal cues to signal that a pupil may need to access their toolkit. Previously, pupils may have required a verbal reminder in order for them to recognise the need to access their toolkit, however now we are seeing that they have a far more concrete understanding of how and when to access their toolkit.

These non-verbal cues are increasingly sufficient to support pupils in recognising the correct time to access the necessary support without the classroom teacher needing to interrupt the lesson fully. This speaks to an interesting excerpt from Improving Social and Emotional Learning in Primary Schools which explores that: There is also evidence to suggest that the benefits of SEL may extend to teachers and to the school environment, including a less disruptive and more positive classroom climate, and teachers reporting lower stress levels, higher job satisfaction, better relationships with their children, and higher confidence in their teaching.“

We are still in the process of enacting our implementation plan, but we have found that our early commitment to developing our school staff alongside integrating and modelling the SEL skills that we wanted our pupils to utilise has helped to anchor our approach and accelerate our results. As we continue on our development journey we are finding that we are regularly revisiting the key recommendations from the Guidance report alongside our initial implementation plan in order to monitor, evaluate and course-correct as and when necessary. 

As part of our next improvement cycle we are particularly focusing on maintaining Recommendation 5: Establish schoolwide norms, expectations and routines that support children’s social and emotional development whilst continuing to monitor, evaluate and embed our approach to Zones of Regulation and SEL.

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Improving Social and Emotional Learning in Primary Schools Guidance Report

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Summary of Recommendations

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