: How to weave Social and Emotional Learning skills into everyday teaching habits Explaining Evidence from the EEF’s guidance report​“Improving Social and Emotional Learning in primary schools”


How to weave Social and Emotional Learning skills into everyday teaching habits

Explaining Evidence from the EEF’s guidance report​“Improving Social and Emotional Learning in primary schools”

Sam, a Year 5 teacher, has noticed that many pupils in his class are struggling to regulate their emotions. They struggle to navigate relationships and are easily distracted in lessons.

The constant low-level disruption this creates is causing Sam a great deal of stress – he’s at the point now that it’s making him wonder whether teaching is for him.

Sam recognises the impact teaching Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) skills can have on primary school pupil behaviour, wellbeing, mental health, and their academic attainment. He wants to do more but is struggling to work out where it might fit within an already crammed timetable.

Evidence from the EEF’s guidance report​“Improving Social and Emotional Learning in Primary Schools” shows that Sam is not alone in identifying time as a barrier to making time for SEL: 71% of schools reported time being the number one reason why it is sparsely taught in their setting. Of course, social and emotional learning interacts with behaviour and classroom routines, so we need to be clear with teachers like Sam about what SEL is – and what it isn’t – in concrete terms.

Why does SEL matter?


The escalating cost of living crisis means these are challenging and worrying times for families across the country. According to the recent Sutton Trust Report on​‘The Cost-of-Living Crisis and Its Impact on Education’, more and more pupils are coming to school tired and unable to concentrate. Not only that, but they are coming to school hungry. These hardships have take an emotional toll, so it’s vital we take a sensitive approach to helping pupils build their emotional self-awareness and f seize every opportunity to support their pupils’ development.’

SEL is not just for children, it can also support staff wellbeing. Evidence suggests that the benefits of taking a proactive approach to SEL include reducing disruption and establishing a more positive classroom climate. It can also help to lower teachers’ stress levels and increase their job satisfaction (read more on page 5 of our improving social and emotional learning in primary schools) How can teachers integrate quality SEL provision into a packed school day?

Recommendation 2 of the EEF’s Improving social and emotional learning in primary schools guidance report suggests several ways that teachers can model SEL skills in their everyday teaching.

Frequent, low-stakes modelling of SEL competencies – weaving this into our teaching habits – could be one way for time poor teachers like Sam, to begin to promote and develop SEL skills in their classrooms.

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Next steps for school leaders

Leaders at Sam’s school could take the following steps to support staff to make the most of teachable moments:

1. Begin a series of training sessions that aim to build staff knowledge about the core skills at the heart of SEL [p4 of SEL guidance report]

2. Use the SEL scenarios tool (below) to support understanding and invite staff to share examples and non-examples from their own experience.

3. Encourage staff to set goals, inviting them to come back to the next meeting ready to share an example of where they have used a teachable moment to model a core SEL skill.

4. Build in the habit of starting each staff meeting with a​‘Spotlight on SEL’, creating a regular opportunity to praise, encourage and monitor impact.

Making these small changes could make a big difference for teachers like Sam and their pupils.The next blog in our SEL habits series will share further examples of how leaders and teachers might put SEL into practice in their settings.

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Improving Social and Emotional Learning In Primary Schools

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Improving Social and Emotional Learning In Primary Schools Full Guidance Report

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