Social and Emotional Learning: Skills for life and work

Publication Details

Publication date: 11 March 2015
Edited by: Early Intervention Foundation, UCL IoE, National University of Ireland Galway & ResearchAbility

Social and Emotional Learning: Skills for life and work

This review bolsters the evidence on the strong links between social and emotional skills in children and how they fare as adults. Evidence indicates that children with well-developed social and emotional skills have a better chance of being happy and healthy adults than those who are just academically able.

New analysis in the report of data from the 1970 Cohort Study finds that social and emotional and cognitive skills are each very important for future life. Their development is related. Children with strong cognitive skills typically show stronger social and emotional development, and vice-versa. However, social and emotional measures provide important signals about likely outcomes above and beyond what is picked up by measures of literacy and numeracy. Compared with cognitive ability assessed at the same age (10 years), social and emotional skills:

  • matter more for general mental well-being (such as greater life satisfaction, mental health and well-being);
  • matter similarly for health and health related outcomes (such as lower likelihood of obesity, smoking and drinking, and better self-rated health);
  • matter similarly for some socio-economic and labour market outcomes (such as higher income and wealth, being employed, and not being in social housing);
  • matter less for other socio-economic and labour market outcomes such as obtaining a degree, having higher wages and being employed in a top job (although there is nonetheless a relationship to these outcomes).

In the second strand of work an international team of experts undertook a review to determine the current evidence on the effectiveness of programmes available in the UK that aim to enhance the social and emotional skills development of children and young people aged 4-20 years. Programmes in school and out-of-school settings were included. The report found strong and consistent support for the impact of social and emotional skills programmes implemented in the school setting. The evidence for programmes delivered in out-of-school youth settings is less definitive. The evidence currently available on the programmes in the UK is on the whole not yet of sufficient quality to demonstrate impact.

This third report was a qualitative review into social and emotional skills provision for children and young people in the education and youth sectors. The report describes the views of participants from interviews conducted at three levels: the national strategic level, the local strategic level and in settings where provision takes place. This report tells us something of what practitioners, policy makers and participants in social and emotional learning think about how the learning is delivered, monitored and evaluated, and what still needs to be done. Overall, there is a lot of good work being done but provision is patchy at best.


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