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Improving social and emotional learning in primary schools: Guidance report

This guide is intended to act as a starting point for primary school leaders to critically review how they support children’s social and emotional development.




There is extensive evidence associating childhood social and emotional skills with improved outcomes at school and in later life, in relation to physical and mental health, school readiness and academic achievement, crime, employment and income. There is also evidence that these skills can be improved purposefully through school-based social and emotional learning (SEL) programmes, and that these impacts can persist over time.

This guide has been produced through a partnership between EIF and the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF)

It sets out six sets of recommendations, aiming to support primary schools to:

  • teach SEL skills explicitly
  • integrate and model SEL skills through everyday teaching
  • plan carefully for adopting a SEL programme
  • use a SAFE curriculum: sequential, active, focused and explicit
  • reinforce SEL skills through a whole-school ethos and activities
  • plan, support and monitor SEL implementation.

This guidance draws on a recent review of the evidence about social and emotional learning conducted by the University of Manchester, which was funded by EIF and EEF. It also draws on a wider body of evidence and expert input, as well as a survey of primary schools in England to identify what they are currently doing to support children’s social and emotional development.

About the author

Jean Gross CBE

Jean is an EIF associate.