FBB are back to school: Where are we at with SEL?

Back in 2019 we began incorporating social and emotional learning into our schools’ programmes, with the aim of improving young people’s SEL skills during their educational years and beyond.

We develop the key skills defined by the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL): self-management, self-awareness, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision making. We believe these skills are the key to success in school and beyond, as they provide the foundational tools for young people to build relationships with their peers, practitioners and teachers in order to flourish. The development of these skills also has a positive impact on attainment, with students making up to four months progress in their studies.

We know the importance of cultivating these vital skills as early as possible, particularly within the education system.

With that in mind, we’re ready to take on the next academic year with an even greater focus on SEL, to ensure our young people stand the best chance at making it successfully through the school year.

Current SEL policy

While SEL has existed in England’s school curriculums since the mid 1990s, it’s been in constant competition with core academic subjects, leaving it often unprioritised or of poor quality. 

A 2022 Impetus report evaluates how more research should be carried out on “how improved understanding and teaching of SEL can be woven unto the ‘golden thread’ of teacher and school leader development.”  

The report highlights 4 key issues with current SEL policy in England’s schools:

  • Greater focus on behavioural skills
  • Lacking a holistic interpretation of SEL
  • Low policy awareness among teachers
  • Resource overload and variation in quality

A lack of clear guidance is a significant roadblock when it comes to comprehensive and effective SEL teaching. Teachers in England have reported the least SEL policy awareness in comparison to the rest of the UK, with lack of guidance and concise resources being key factors. 

The Labour Party have outlined their ambition to ensure ‘life skills’ are built into young people’s school outcomes and we’re pushing hard to ensure SEL forms a major part of this work. We’ll be delivering an experiential classroom session at their party conference to demonstrate what this could look like. 

Our SEL projects

At FBB we value healthy relationships. That’s why our curriculum harnesses the power of SEL skills to help young people create strong bonds with both their peers and trusted adults. 

FBB’s 2021/2022 impact report shows how young people’s SEL skills significantly improve as a direct result of our programme, and increase the longer they’re with us. The data also shows that these skills continue to grow independently of FBB, helping our graduates successfully transition into adulthood after their school years.   

With these skills at their disposal, young people can move through the school system with greater ease, reducing the chance of emotional and behavioural problems that can hinder their development and even lead to exclusion. With a greater chance of staying in school, our participants are 11x more likely to go on to pass their GCSEs in English and maths. 

Moving forward with SEL

It’s clear that a consistent and systematic approach is needed to fully integrate SEL into young people’s lives, not only in the classroom but in multiple contexts. 

SEL skills should not be limited to an academic setting, but incorporated into home life and wider community settings. Only in this way can we fully equip young people with the skills to cultivate healthy and trusting relationships.   

This is why FBB places huge importance on parental engagement, making 14,952 phone calls to parents last year to ensure that the skills we develop in the classroom are being implemented outside of school too. 

What we know is that the evidence based on SEL is predominantly taken from U.S. context. A recent IPPR report found that there is “very limited high-quality evidence on the impact of positive youth development interventions” in relation to SEL. 

We’ll be publishing some research later this year, which we believe will be a first of its kind. If you’d like to find out more, you can sign up to receive our newsletter. 

Written by Courtney Geering

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