Northampton Electronic Collection of Theses and Research


Garner, P. (2013) Editorial. Support for Learning. 28(3), pp. 90-91. 0268-2141.

Item Type: Article
Abstract: I am currently engaged with a number of colleagues in some professional development work in China. This places a focus on ‘social and emotional learning’ (SEL), and is part of a wider initiative being promoted by UNICEF, which places emphasis upon ‘child-friendly schools’. As you might expect, this work is invigorating. It offers opportunities for all of those involved – not least those who are responsible for organising these sessions – to reflect on the benefits of SEL for all children, as well as for their teachers and parents. SEL is defined by Durlak et al. (2011, p. 408) as: ‘the process through which children and young people … acquire knowledge, attitudes and skills to recognise and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, demonstrate care and concern for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, make responsible decisions, and handle interpersonal situations effectively’. In various forms it has had widespread exposure in schools in the United States, Canada and Australia. In these places the connection is routinely made between student learning and their emotional well-being. While the connection between SEL and a student's attainment within the formal curriculum is sometimes difficult to demonstrate, few will regard the link as contestable. Such an overarching set of principles will immediately strike a chord with many readers. More especially they will draw parallels with the ‘Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning’ (SEAL) programme in England which was extensively promoted in schools during the early part of the 21st century. That initiative, in common with SEL approaches, had significant implications for the greater inclusion of students with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). While it is regrettable that the present administration in England has not seen fit to support its further development, it is apparent that the spirit of SEAL continues to thrive in many English schools. We should rejoice that this is the case. In England at the present time there is considerable scrutiny of the value brought to the learning experiences of students with SEND. A period of intensive development for teaching assistants (TAs) resulted in an increase in the profile and status of such practitioners, manifested by such initiatives as the introduction of the higher level teaching assistant (HLTA) position (Cajkler et al., 2007). As in the case of SEAL, however, there have been challenges to commonly accepted ground-level views that TAs bring important benefits to those in schools who experience SEND, the latter of whom have been highlighted by Hallam, Rhamie and Shaw (2006). In spite of current policy diffidence shown by the present English Government, there can be few doubts that both of these important aspects of responding to the challenges and opportunities presented by students with SEND in schools are embedded in the practice of many schools. So profound are their implications that this will continue even in the face of the funding cuts that come with such negative policy iterations. The present issue of Support for Learning contains articles that offer further tangential inferences that the connection between learning and emotions and the centrality of additional support given in the classroom are vital components in promoting greater inclusive learning. The issue contains two articles that highlight the importance of recognising the spectrum of learner needs in our classrooms – using the examples of traumatic brain injuries and genetic syndromes to illustrate the point. Karen Hux and her colleagues Erin Bush, Kelli Evans and Gina Simanek provide insights into the ways in which an early understanding of traumatic brain injuries is an important yet overlooked issue. Colin Reilly and Lindsey Stedman write about genetic syndromes in a similar fashion. Both articles suggest that additional supports will almost certainly be required by a class teacher encountering these challenges, thus nicely amplifying the bleak outlook that faces marginalised children when resources that are viewed as essential supports are removed. The dilemmas inherent in providing appropriate learning environments for children with SEND are further highlighted in Jonathan Glazzard's piece, alongside that of Isabel Shaver and Kirstie McClatchey. Their data provide further examples of the contested nature of inclusive education: its territory appears to be populated in equal measure by opportunities and challenges; these will be brought into sharp focus as policy U-turns on SEAL and TAs have their undoubted effect. The role of emotional ‘self’ within professional development is one of the themes that Melanie Peter chooses to emphasise; she suggests that self-knowledge is critical as a means by which teacher–student relationships can be fostered, thereby echoing a core feature in both SEL and SEAL approaches. The self-actualised teacher, of the kind envisaged by Peter, is likely to relish the challenge of connecting with a diverse range of learners. These would include those students who feel demotivated by and disconnected from formal education – a topic that Jessica Wery and Margareta Thomson consider. While some of the connections I make between the current batch of articles and the twin themes of SEL/SEAL and classroom support are occasionally only by inference, there can conversely be little doubt that both issues are identifiable in diverse national settings. The present issue of Support for Learning comprises articles by contributors from England, the USA and Ireland. All of these locations are established, well-resourced post-industrialist democracies. Their education systems – though we may beg to differ at times – are among the most advantaged, high-performing and culturally attuned provision on the planet. This, by circuitous means, returns me to China and its UNICEF-sponsored SEL initiative. That country is in a current stage of considerable economic and social development. That it has chosen, as part of this process, to place some emphasis on supporting social and emotional learning for those young people who experience difficulties in schools and challenging circumstances outside them is an object lesson for the English Government. Neatly, I think, this is potent amplification of one of the key value-added dimensions in international comparison: that of country settings taking as much from the encounter as they give (Phillips, 2005). Being in China reminds me that our international partners serve a valuable function in highlighting the ways in which valuable, classroom-based strategies and orientations are all too easily sacrificed on the altar of ideology.
Subjects: L Education > LC Special aspects of Education > LC65 Social aspects of education > LC71 Education and the state
L Education > LC Special aspects of Education > LC1200 Inclusive education
L Education > LC Special aspects of Education > LC3950 Exceptional children and youth. Special education
Creators: Garner, Philip
Publisher: Blackwell
Faculties, Divisions and Institutes: University Faculties, Divisions and Research Centres - OLD > Research Centre > Centre for Special Needs Education and Research
University Faculties, Divisions and Research Centres - OLD > Faculty of Education & Humanities
University Faculties, Divisions and Research Centres - OLD > Faculty of Education & Humanities > Special Education Needs and Inclusion
Faculties > Faculty of Education & Humanities > Special Education Needs and Inclusion
University Faculties, Divisions and Research Centres - OLD > Research Centre > Centre for Education and Research
Research Centres > Centre for Education and Research
Date: August 2013
Date Type: Publication
Page Range: pp. 90-91
Journal or Publication Title: Support for Learning
Volume: 28
Number: 3
Language: English
ISSN: 0268-2141
Status: Published / Disseminated
Related URLs:

Actions (login required)

Edit Item Edit Item