Best Practice

Understanding and supporting SEMH pupils

Drawing on the outstanding work of Adelaide School, a special provision in Cheshire catering for pupils aged nine and upwards, Sarah Barlow offers advice to mainstream schools on supporting students who face social, emotional and mental health challenges

I moved to Adelaide, an outstanding SEMH (social, emotional mental health) special school, 10 years ago. Concerned that I did not have a “special” skill-set, I set out on a learning journey to discover the secrets behind working with these challenging individuals.

In truth, so many of the key elements to working with these pupils are the core principles of all teaching.

However, we do need to reflect on some of the things we do...

Relationships are at the core of all we do in SEMH education. As opposed to discipline, caring and respecting is what changes the behaviour of pupils.

Pupils with SEMH will have experienced challenging relationships at home or in school and learning to trust others is key to supporting pupils to be positive citizens with a desire to improve. Showing pupils that they matter and genuinely emotionally investing in their development makes the most significant difference for them.

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