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Young people missing out on classroom skills teachers say are ‘crucial for academic attainment’

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Overwhelming support for building skills that could break down the attainment gap

Inconsistent policies and a lack of focus on young peoples’ social and emotional skills could be behind a long-term failure to close the attainment gap – preventing young people from getting the academic results that they need to succeed – according to a new report from youth charity Impetus and the think and action-tank Centre for Education and Youth.

The report coincides with new survey results* that show that 92 per cent of teachers agree that social and emotional learning is crucial for attainment in school. In particular 60 per cent of headteachers surveyed agree strongly that these skills make a difference to academic success.

However, despite this support from headteachers, 76 per cent of teachers when asked said they had spent an hour or less that day developing social and emotional skills in the classroom, with 27 per cent spending no time at all.

The Education Endowment Foundation found that the development of skills like managing emotions, empathy, and the ability to establish and maintain supportive relationships and make responsible decisions – can drive up to four months of academic progress.

Steven Haines, Director of Public Affairs at youth charity Impetus, who commissioned the report said:

“Before a young person is ready to succeed at school, they must be ready to learn. Our report shows that there has been a long term failure to focus on building the skills necessary in young people to help them achieve academically – and now we know that teachers and headteachers agree.

“The pandemic has seen thousands of children fall behind – overwhelmingly young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, who were already only half as likely to pass their GCSE English and Maths. Social and emotional learning urgently needs to be properly embedded in a way that works in our education system, to make sure that all young people, regardless of their background, can have the same life chances.”

Anamaría Granada, CfEY Associate and report author, said:

“Social and emotional learning is incredibly powerful. When taught and embedded well, it can be an equaliser that supports young people to reach their full potential in school and society. This report shows that even though there are examples of great practice from teachers, schools and other practitioners, SEL requires a strong push from DfE to ensure that its importance is recognised, prioritised and embedded in the education system.

“SEL should form part of the battery of strategies that strengthen a preventative, holistic and upstream level of high-quality provision to improve attainment and protect against mental health issues.” 

The new report ‘Catalysing Social and Emotional Learning in Schools in England’ from Impetus and the Centre for Education and Youth (CfEY) examines the current state of social and emotional learning in schools in England. It aims to understand how policy can create enabling environments to ensure that social and emotional learning thrives across our school system, especially benefiting young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Pages 29 – 35 of the report also includes case studies of five pioneering charities who are making a difference in this space (Jon Egging Trust, Khulisa, Kids Inspire, Football Beyond Borders and West London Zone.)

  • A full copy of the report ‘Catalysing Social and Emotional Learning in Schools in England’ is available here.
  • We used The Collaboration for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning’s (CASEL) definition of social and emotional learning:

“The process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.

  • *Survey data is taken from 2 separate questions asked by Teacher Tapp – a daily survey app that asks over 7,000 teachers questions each day and reweights the results to make them representative.
    • Question 1: Developing social and emotional skills is crucial for improving attainment at school (respondents were asked to rate their response on a likert scale of agreement/disagreement). Asked on 30.11.2022.
  • Question 2: How much time did you spend today dedicated to developing pupils’ social and emotional skills? Asked on 25.04.2022.

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