Emotional and social wellbeing enables people to function well, learn effectively and meet the challenges of life. Primary schools are a practical setting to try and enhance emotional and social wellbeing, since virtually the whole population of that age can be reached and programmes could, potentially, be relatively cheap to deliver if integrated into existing educational provision. However, to date there is little evidence of the efficacy of primary school interventions of this kind.
A team at the MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, the Universities of Stirling, Glasgow and Strathclyde, and educational psychologists in Dundee and Glasgow have designed a programme to promote emotional and social wellbeing among Scottish primary school children, called Social and Emotional Education and Development (SEED). It draws on other school interventions and initiatives, in particular the Gatehouse Project in Australia and CASEL in the USA. We have received funding from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) to conduct a large scale, five year evaluation of this programme through a randomised controlled trial. This is one of the first rigorous evaluations of primary school interventions to promote social and emotional wellbeing in the UK.
SEED has three components:
1. A pupils’ needs assessment using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ), completed by teachers at the end of Primary 1 (aged 5 or 6) and self-completed by Primary 5 pupils (aged 9 or 10), plus a school's assessment of organisational needs.
2. Educational psychologists feed back assessment results (aggregated by junior and senior primary) to staff and pupils to: promote reflection on school policy, practice and culture; help teachers to select initiatives/approaches to address pupil and school needs; and develop commitment to positive change. These initiatives/approaches become part of the school’s improvement plan. The initiatives are generally of three kinds:
a) classroom packages for delivery to pupils, e.g. Creating Confident Kids; Being Cool in School;
b) training for teachers and/or parents, e.g. to promote proactive classroom management and interactional instruction, or to understand the importance of social and emotional wellbeing of children and being positive role-models;
c) whole school initiatives, e.g. the implementation of restorative practice approaches.
The programme contributes to central goals of the Curriculum for Excellence and training packages being used have been endorsed by the Scottish Government.
3. The implementation of these initiatives/approaches over three years.
SEED works with the whole school community, including pupils, teachers, other school staff and parents. It allows for the development of an appropriate tailored response to school need and schools are being supported to work at both class and school level to implement change. Although the project is set within the context of the Scottish curriculum, the intervention has generic importance to the rest of the UK and beyond
The SEED programme was refined and piloted in four Glasgow primary schools and the main trial's schools have been recruited from three Scottish Local Authorities. The trial will run from 2012 to 2017 and is currently in the Follow-up 1 phase.