3 Considerations

3 Considerations

PHIAC took account of a number of factors and issues in making the recommendations.

3.1 PHIAC adopted an holistic approach to social and emotional wellbeing within primary schools. This emphasises the importance of a supportive and secure environment and an ethos that avoids stigma and discrimination in relation to mental health and social and emotional difficulties. It includes support for pupils with special needs.

3.2 The guidance should be used within the context of a range of services and processes that promote children's social and emotional wellbeing in primary education. These may range from school-based, universal approaches to the referral and treatment of children with a mental illness.

3.3 At some point, all children may demonstrate emotional, social and behavioural difficulties during the normal experience of childhood. But they are not always indicative of a significant psychological or medical problem.

3.4 While prevention of child abuse is not the primary focus of this guidance, neglect and abuse can lead to mental health problems. This guidance must therefore be used in conjunction with local child protection and other procedures to safeguard them.

3.5 Effective programmes to promote social and emotional wellbeing in primary education are based on partnership working with children. Ensuring children can express their views and opinions is a vital aspect of this.

3.6 PHIAC considered that universal approaches to promote social and emotional wellbeing should be the main focus. This includes early identification of children at risk of having their learning disrupted by social and emotional difficulties. A strong focus on prevention could also avoid inappropriate referrals to clinical services.

3.7 PHIAC recognised that the national SEAL and Healthy Schools programmes (and related local policies on, for example, anti-bullying) provide important vehicles for implementing these recommendations. The recommendations should also help support Ofsted in its inspection of progress in schools towards achieving the goals set out in 'Every child matters' (HM Government 2004).

3.8 Children's social and emotional wellbeing is influenced by a range of factors, from their individual make-up and family background to the community within which they live and society at large. As a result, school-based activities to develop and protect their social and emotional wellbeing can only form one element of a broader, multi-agency strategy. Other elements will include, for example, the development of policies to improve the social and economic circumstances of children living in disadvantaged circumstances.

3.9 It is important to recognise and respond to issues relating to equality. That involves taking account of the needs of children from different socioeconomic, cultural and ethnic backgrounds. It also involves ensuring programmes are culturally sensitive. The latter is particularly important to ensure social and emotional difficulties are not misinterpreted. The distinct needs of disabled children also need to be considered.

3.10 Practitioners involved in delivering interventions may face confidentiality issues, for example in relation to child abuse. Similarly, children must be made aware of their rights on confidentiality. This guidance should be used in the context of local policies and protocols regarding confidentiality.

3.11 Lack of investment in mental health promotion in primary schools is likely to lead to significant costs for society. Research shows that a child's emotional, social and psychological wellbeing influences their future health, education and social prospects. Children who experience emotional and social problems are more likely, at some point, to: misuse drugs and alcohol, have lower educational attainment, be untrained, unemployed or involved in crime.

3.12 Taking a longer term view, the interventions were considered to be cost effective. An integrated approach, using universal and targeted interventions, could prevent the negative behaviours which can lead to costly consequences for the NHS, social services and the criminal justice system.

3.13 Programmes to promote social and emotional wellbeing will help children cope with particularly stressful times such as the transition from primary to secondary school.

3.14 When using group-based approaches, care is needed with groups that include both aggressive and non-aggressive children, as this approach may have adverse consequences on the latter. It is also important to respond to individual needs.

3.15 Programmes designed to promote the emotional and social wellbeing of children need to be rigorously evaluated. Evaluation could be funded by research agencies and the Department for Children, Schools and Families.

3.16 Teachers and practitioners in primary education need basic and ongoing training to promote young children's social and emotional wellbeing, provided by relevant training and education organisations.

3.17 This guidance does not consider:

  • the effectiveness of interventions in relation to educational attainment as well as social and emotional wellbeing

  • interventions that address the relationship between social and emotional wellbeing and factors such as physical activity levels and nutrition

  • assessment of children with special needs

  • clinical interventions for established mental illness.