Schools urged to focus on social and emotional skills


Teaching students social and emotional skills as part of a whole-school focus on health and wellbeing can have a direct impact on attainment.

This is the message from a leading academic, who has compiled a briefing for schools offering guidance, ideas and resources.

The 14-page document has been created by Professor Fiona Brooks, head of adolescent and child health research at the University of Hertfordshire, on behalf of government body Public Health England.

In it, she presents evidence of the strong link between education outcomes and health, and argues for the curriculum-based teaching of social and emotional skills, such as resilience. These kind of programmes have been seen to improve pupils’ attainment by 11 per cent, the paper states.

It adds: “School-based programmes of social and emotional learning have the potential to help young people acquire the skills they need to make good academic progress. They also produce benefits to pupils’ health and wellbeing, offering a significant return for the resource and time investment by schools to establish such programmes.”

The paper also quotes Ofsted evidence, which has previously identified a strong correlation between schools that achieve a high grade for PSHE and those that are graded outstanding for overall effectiveness.

The paper provides further evidence linking a focus on pupils’ health and wellbeing to success within each of the four core Ofsted inspection judgements.

The paper argues for the benefits of a whole-school approach, with evidence showing that a school’s “culture, ethos and environment” is crucial. The importance of regular physical activity, diet, and extra-curricular activities to wellbeing – and the links to attainment – are also stressed.

The briefing has been backed by the National Association of Head Teachers, which worked with Public Health England on the document. General secretary Russell Hobby said: “The briefing provides ideas for a whole-school approach to improve pupil health and wellbeing, with ideas including a school approach to healthy eating which has shown improvements in academic achievements, especially for children from lower income families.

“There are many reasons why school leaders should do everything they can to make sure schools are harmonious places to learn and develop. This new briefing underlines the value for schools of promoting health and wellbeing and gives some valuable guidance to school leaders.”

The briefing can be downloaded via



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