Updated: Monday, 6th July 2020 @ 6:52pm

‘We’ve gone backwards’: Vulnerable schoolchildren require ‘emotional teaching’, Manchester professor claims

‘We’ve gone backwards’: Vulnerable schoolchildren require ‘emotional teaching’, Manchester professor claims

By John McDougall

Vulnerable children are being left isolated by schools who do not promote wellbeing in their youngsters, according to research undertaken by the University of Manchester.

Data from across the world was analysed by Neil Humphrey, a professor of psychology of education, who looked at social and emotional learning (SEL) in primary schools.

His research found that attainment, discipline and mental health were all impacted upon by approaches to lessons and extracurricular work, including anti bullying campaigns.

With many UK schools abandoning SEL due to the coalition government’s policy, Professor Humphrey believes this could have a profound effect on vulnerable pupils. 

“Because of the coalition’s obsession with academic scores and testing, we’ve now gone backwards,” he said. “It’s a disaster for those vulnerable pupils politicians claim they aim to support.

“School is a place that should provide a secure and safe environment for all children, especially those with mental health issues or difficult social backgrounds.

Evidence suggests teaching social and emotional skills in childhood can prevent problems further down the line, particularly for pupils whose family and community backgrounds may place them at risk

“If social and emotional learning is properly implemented, especially at primary school level, then the effects can be profound because children are in a better position to learn,” Professor Humphrey added.

His current work involves undertaking a major study in primary schools involving more than 5,000 Manchester schoolchildren, based upon a similar American scheme.

Recent research from United States shows that positive SEL can improve children’s academic scores by up to 11%, highlighting its importance.

SEL is particularly important to children from challenged backgrounds but Professor Humphrey is keen to highlight that it needs to be provided to all.

“Not all children may need it, but a universal model is the most cost effective way to implement SEL,” he said.

“It’s a bit like immunisation, not everyone has the same degree of risk, but it makes sense to cover all bases just in case.

“Education is not just about testing: it’s about producing people who are not only well qualified, but are able to meet the many challenges life will present to them. I urge the Government to think again.”

Picture courtesy of flickingerbrad, via Flickr, with thanks.

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