Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning

Great Orton Primary School is developing a SEAL program.

SEAL – Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning – is an umbrella term that covers many of the skills children need to learn well and have a healthy, happy and fulfilling life, now and in the future.

Learning SEAL skills has a whole raft of benefits for children, within the classroom and in life as a whole.

SEAL teaches children how to be effective, successful learners. Research has shown that focusing on the social and emotional aspects of learning actually improves academic attainment. Children learn to solve problems independently, and it can also improve school attendance and behaviour.

Socially, SEAL helps children to make and sustain friendships, deal with conflict, work and play cooperatively, compete fairly and with respect for others, and be a good sport whether they win or lose.

Children learn to recognise and stand up for their own rights and the rights of others, understand the differences between people, such as cultural differences, and respect other people’s beliefs and values.

SEAL also teaches children skills that are important for resilience, including managing feelings like frustration, anger and fear, recovering from setbacks and persevering when things are difficult.
How SEAL is taught in primary schools
In primary schools, SEAL isn’t a standalone subject, but is embedded throughout the curriculum and in school life. It encompasses areas such as emotional literacy, social skills and personal development.

It’s not a statutory teaching area, but the vast majority of schools help children develop SEAL skills, whether through set lessons as part of PSHE (personal, social and health education) or wider school practices. To be effective, it needs a whole-school approach that promotes the same values across all year groups and all aspects of school life.
There are many ways in which SEAL is taught as part of core subjects. In English, for example, children are often asked to make inferences about characters’ feelings in books.

In maths, they might be challenged to review a problem they’ve got wrong and have another go at finding the correct answer. 

In science, they learn about how people grow and change throughout their lives, including during puberty.

In RE, they learn about a variety of religions and their traditions, and may learn songs or do crafts inspired by other cultures.

In history, they might be asked to write a diary entry from the perspective of a person from the past, such as during the Great Fire of London.

At times, primary school children will have lessons that focus solely on SEAL skills. For example, they might have a lesson on bullying and a class discussion to come up with a set of rules to promote good friendships. This usually falls under the remit of PSHE.

There are also many other ways in which SEAL skills are fostered in primary schools, including:Circle time
Older students mentoring younger ones
Buddy schemes and friendship benches
Worry boxes
School councils or forums
Rewards and incentives
Mindfulness or relaxation sessions
Help with conflict resolution e.g. if friends fall out
Restorative justice
Special events to mark occasions like Anti-Bullying Week
Show and tell sessions to celebrate each other’s successes
Sports day and sports matches
Charity and awareness days
Community outreach
This list is not exhaustive: there are very few aspects of school life in which SEAL cannot be embedded