SEAL - What is it and how can it help me?

Posted on February 18, 2008 by Martin Watson
Categories: Primary, Secondary,

SEAL – What is it and how can it help me?
By Martin Watson – Learning Mentor and Secondary SEAL Coordinator for Luton Borough Council

Before you get worried this article is not about a ball balancing sea mammal, although it would be very cool to take a Seal into school, if a little impractical.

SEAL stands for Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning. It is a focussed and coordinated attempt by the UK Government to teach our children and young people the social and emotional skills that they need to learn effectively.


I don't know about you, but my experience of many of the young people that I've worked with over the years is that they struggle to recognise their own feelings and when they do, they do not know how to deal with them. Alongside this, if they cannot deal with their own emotions, how are they supposed to recognise how others are feeling? Children and young people often struggle to make and keep good relationships, they struggle to express themselves effectively and they have difficulty setting themselves goals and working towards them.

Research has shown that well designed programmes that promote social and emotional skills have shown to have a positive impact on pupil's attitudes and behaviour (Weare and Gray, 2003; Zins et al., 2004) For example:

• Pupils have higher self esteem and confidence
• Pupils are happier and get on better with each other
• Pupils are more engaged in learning so fewer disengage with school
• Quieter pupils become more assertive and confident
• There is better behaviour in the classroom and improved attendance
• There is less bullying
• There are lower rates of truancy, offending and drug misuse

What is SEAL?

There is a Primary and a Secondary version of SEAL.

Primary SEAL has been available to schools for the last 3-4 years and is widely used across the country. In Luton, over 90% of Primary schools are using SEAL.

Secondary SEAL is relatively new, only available to schools since April 2007. Government requirements are that 10% of schools within each local authority should have been using or planning to use SEAL by September 2007. Following this, all schools should have the opportunity to use SEAL within the next 4 years.

The main bulk of both Primary and Secondary SEAL is a taught programme that can be delivered as a standalone lesson through PSHCE, in small groups or as part of other subject lessons. There are also links to all National Curriculum subjects and ideas for whole school links and developments.

SEAL is not supposed to be taught for 1 hour each week and then be forgotten. The only way it will be completely effective is if it is used across the school with everybody involved.

SEAL aims to develop five main areas; self-awareness; empathy; social skills; motivation and managing feelings. Each of these is broke down further into learning outcomes of which there are 50 spread across the five areas. For the specific skills you would expect children and young people to develop as they use the SEAL programme, follow this link.

Primary SEAL

There is Primary SEAL material for all years from Foundation to Year 6; it works as a spiral curriculum with the same topics being covered each year but with the specific material changing.

There are six main themes that are studied over half a term each, they are:

New Beginnings
Getting on and falling out
Going for goals
Good to be me

There is also a seventh, smaller theme, called 'Say no to bullying'. This is designed to be covered during Anti Bullying week in November.

Each theme starts with an assembly to set the scene, there is then a number of 'learning opportunities' that classes can use to develop their understanding. These are interactive and fun with a minimal amount of writing and listening to an adult talking from the front of the class.

In Primary SEAL, as well as the main class activities there are also staff activities, small group activities and family activities, all linked to the main theme.

Secondary SEAL

Although covering the same five broad areas and fifty learning outcomes, secondary SEAL is organised differently.

There are four themes spread over the year and at the moment there is only specific material for Year 7, although Year 8 and 9 material is on its way and the Year 7 material can be easily adapted. There are currently no assemblies, small group or family activities for Secondary SEAL.

The four themes are:

A place to learn – focus on self-awareness
Learning to be together – focus on social skills and empathy
Keep on learning – focus on motivation
Learning about me – focus on managing feelings

As with Primary SEAL, there are whole school and specific subject links for each theme.

How can SEAL help me?

I hope that as you have been reading this you have begun to think about how you might be able to link in what you already do with SEAL. However for all of you thinking this all sounds fine but what does this mean to me, hopefully this next section will help.

There are a number of things, I believe, you as a schools worker can now do to link in with SEAL.
1. Familiarise yourself with the SEAL material – visit – Here all of the Primary and Secondary materials are available.
2. Speak to the key people within the schools you work in. Is SEAL being used? If yes try to find out how, maybe you could sit in on a session, offer to help. If no, ask why? Maybe point people towards the website.
3. Think about how you could use some of the material or resources alongside what you already do.
4. Lastly and I believe most importantly, model good social and emotional skills to the children, young people and adults that you work with and alongside.

I firmly believe that SEAL can make a real difference to a broken and hurting generation and I strongly encourage you to get involved wherever possible.

About Me

I have been a Christian for 18 years and involved in Children's and youth work for almost as long. I have working alongside LCET for 14 years in various ways and I am currently a trustee.

I became a Learning Mentor at a Luton high school in January 2002, moving to work as Consultant Learning Mentor for Luton Borough Council in September 2005. I am now the Learning Mentor and Secondary SEAL Coordinator for the whole of Luton.

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