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Making SEAL work in secondary schools

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I  wrote this  article for The Times Educational Supplement last year. It was published in the ‘TESPro’ section a year ago and  I’m putting it out there on my new  website because for those of you engaged in improving the social and emotional skills of pupils  (and dare I say it, staff?) I  think it is still relevant.

It’s been 12 months since the end of the National Strategies. Isn’t SEAL dead?  Michael Gove hasn’t actually banned SEAL, but without the army of NS advisers and LA consultants pushing it, hasn’t SEAL disappeared?

Well, no. SEAL is very much alive in primary schools and also in secondary, although there are many pitfalls in its implementation. Secondary SEAL is often entrusted to a middle manager given no incentive and less time to do it. After an exciting training day, with no follow up, it becomes just another fad that came and went. Or it is introduced only for the ‘vulnerable’ and languishes in a windowless room at the end of a corridor where an HLTA does heroic work with a small group of pupils who never get the chance to apply their improved social and emotional  skills because the rest of the staff don’t know about them.

At the same time, teachers nationally face the dilemma that they must facilitate lessons where pupils learn independently if they wish to be graded ‘good’ and ‘outstanding’, yet many fear attempting group work because of the risk it presents to behaviour. The proper implementation of SEAL has never been so necessary.

Here are my ten top tips for getting it right with SEAL in secondary schools

  1. Lead it strategically, whole school.
    The head teacher has to believe that SEAL will make the difference. Senior leaders need to know how developing the SEAL skills of staff and pupils will contribute to anti-bullying,  behaviour on the school bus, increased attainment, meaningful performance management etc.  What will your school look like when SEAL is fully embedded? What will you achieve this term? In a year? In five years?
  2. Place SEAL within learning and teaching.
    What behaviours do pupils need to demonstrate in order to achieve their potential? SEAL is an opportunity for departments to think this through and teach the behaviours they want to see. Look at the features of an outstanding lesson. Get colleagues to map them against the five domains of SEAL. Challenge your learning and teaching group: How will ‘Self Awareness’ support Assessment for Learning? How will ‘Motivation’ support increased attainment?
  3. Make group work a focus
    – Teach the relevant SEAL skills from Y7.
    – Unpick them in each lesson e.g. “Today our SEAL objective is to work well in groups. How will I know you are doing that?”
    – Ensure that all teaching staff use a signal to gain pupils’ attention and establish a clear routine by which pupils gain the teachers attention. (So basic but frequently missing. What could be more supportive of the development of good social skills and emotional self control than set routines for managing talk?)
  4. Work with a department
    Go through the scheme of work, identifying the opportunities for paired and group work. Choose SEAL learning outcomes appropriate to each lesson. Plan collaboratively to teach the SEAL element.With the department sharing its success, that SEAL CPD day you’ve planned will be much more effective. Teachers love hearing from colleagues that it works, in our school, with our kids. Get that external speaker in to rattle people’s thinking by all means (I hope you will, my email is at the foot of this article..) but include the home-grown expertise that to over your ‘INSET terrorists’.
  5. Involve pupils
    I once had the privilege of listening to primary pupils talking about observations of peer behaviour they had conducted and how they had given each other feedback. They even told us how they had used their SEAL skills to do it. There is almost no limit to what secondary pupils are capable of, if they are trusted and supported to see the impact of their work.
  6. Include SEAL in performance  management
    If you are serious about SEAL, measure it. Establish baseline data and capture the impact of SEAL on attendance, behaviour, attainment etc. Require every member of staff to have a SEAL performance management objective.
  7. Focus on the modelling by all adults
    There is s song by Ike and Tina Turner “I Can’t Believe What You Say Because I See What You Do”. It’s a boppy little number , perfect to put on as staff enter the hall for your CPD. We all  teach behaviour all the time, by example.  One might ask, where’s the curriculum? SEAL is your answer.
  8. Find out about your SEAL primary schools.
    You might find all manner of routines and responsibilities with which your intake come equipped, that until now have been discarded on entry. Build on prior learning!
  9. Drip feed SEAL into everything
    Ensure SEAL features in every policy, meeting , scheme of work and lesson. Your learning walks must look for it and your CPD must give staff time to plan for it.
  10. Walk it like you talk it
    The manner in which SLT model the five domains of SEAL will be absolutely key. Honest conversations between leaders that go beyond the jovial  “That wasn’t very SEAL!” are a pre-requisite to success. SEAL must be for staff as much as it is for pupils. Staff must know it but they must also feel it and that will come from SLT.

Why should you hire me?

Here are some of the issues that I can help you sort: If the answers to any of the issues to the right is yes then get in touch – you have found the man you are looking for!

But you don't need to take it from me, have a look at my testimonials page.

If you have:

  • Some of your staff keep getting into unnecessary confrontations with pupils?
  • Some staff struggle to deal with social chatter?
  • Subject leaders who don’t take the lead on behaviour for learning
  • Head of house/year who are buried in the reactive and want to be proactive?

If you want to:

  • Improve attendance?
  • Improve behaviour?
  • Deliver SEAL whole school
  • Get help with the behaviour and safety SEF?
  • Have better behaviour and attendance data?
  • Get PLTS embedded?
  • Get pupil voice working?

And also:

Do you want the best whole staff behaviour CPD at an affordable cost?


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