Primary and secondary schools help children and young people learn social, emotional and mental skills through both the taught and the wider curriculum (such as activities outside the classroom). Schools can provide the supportive, caring and nurturing environment that supports positive social, emotional and mental wellbeing. They are also important settings in which to identify and provide early intervention for children and young people at increased risk of mental ill health.

Schools have statutory duties to establish environments where children and young people are supported and can fully engage. These duties encourage schools to support personal development, mental health and wellbeing. Many schools follow a whole-school approach to social, emotional and mental wellbeing (see the Department for Education's research and analysis on supporting mental health in schools and colleges). This approach goes beyond learning and teaching to include school culture, ethos and environment. It involves engaging with children and young people, their parents and carers, teacher and school leaders and outside agencies.

Social, emotional and mental wellbeing may be promoted in curriculum subjects such as personal, social, health and economic education and be embedded more broadly through a school's commitment to the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of their pupils. Key challenges for schools include:

  • knowing what approaches improve student outcomes in a specific school setting

  • accommodating effective teaching of social, emotional and mental wellbeing in a crowded curriculum.

Schools use various methods to identify children and young people who may benefit from targeted interventions to support their approach to social, emotional and mental wellbeing. This may include information from other practitioners such as a speech and language therapist or special educational needs and disability coordinator.

  • National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)