• GUEST BLOG: Teaching pupils emotional intelligence

    960 640 Stuart O'Brien

    The behaviour of pupils in class has been proven to have a direct link to their educational outcomes.

    Here, Lyn Hamblin, former Leader of Student Personal Development and Wellbeing at St Albans Girls’ School and current Regional Director for Supply Desk Ltd, discusses the importance of helping children build their emotional intelligence skills as part of teachers’ approach to behaviour management…

    Behaviour can affect learning

    We all know that behaviour can impact pupil progress in school, but to what extent? In the largest study of its kind, Ofsted estimated that up to 20% of learning could be lost each day due to low-level disruptive behaviour –like talking and swinging on chairs, with two-thirds of teachers saying that it is a major problem. That adds up to two years of education lost by the time pupils take their GCSEs.

    Mild behaviour issues in schools aren’t usually logged by teachers because it’s too common to record it all and, therefore, it’s rarely reported to senior management or parents. With an Association of Teachers and Lecturers 2016 report showing that over 79% of teachers suffered from high-level disruption in their class, and Ofsted identifying that low-level behaviour is the most disruptive, schools are looking for new ways to tackle misbehaviour in the classroom.


    Self-regulation (managing behaviour and emotions) is a key component of emotional intelligence alongside self-awareness, motivation, empathy and social skills, all of which are essential for children’s success both inside and outside of the classroom.

    The first step in equipping children with the skills to self-regulate is helping them to understand the driving factors behind their behaviour – it could be poor motivation, something going on in their personal life or an inability to communicate – as well as the negative impact their behaviour can have on other children. Children need to understand their role within the classroom, and the wider community and, accordingly, their responsibility to other children to behave in an appropriate way.

    In practice, it’s about taking time to reflect on children’s behaviours and using language such as, ‘how do you think that made somebody feel?’

    Building resilience

    Resilience has been linked to emotional health and well-being outcomes later in life and teachers are well-placed to help children develop this skill.

    In the 2016 report, Promoting Emotional Health, Well-being and Resilience in Primary Schools, the Public Policy Institute for Wales, outlined that: ‘Schools have a valuable role to play in identifying and meeting the needs of pupils with respect to emotional health and well-being. School-based activities have the potential to make significant and lasting positive impacts on young people’s well-being.’

    The report goes on to detail the importance of building resilience and good emotional health in children with additional needs, such as those from lower socio-economic backgrounds, those who have been exposed to trauma and migrants or refugees.

    One such way schools can go about this is through mindfulness or resilience training and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) techniques. We’ve seen a real emergence of this in schools. CBT and mindfulness can help children learn coping strategies to manage their behaviour and feelings. With schools becoming increasingly target-driven, such techniques can also be beneficial for children who are struggling with pressure and stress, whether due to an upcoming test or a dispute in the playground.

    Implementing a regular, weekly ‘Circle Time’ session in your classroom, where you focus on a specific issue facing pupils, is another behaviour management tool teachers use to help children develop resilience. Circle Time enables children to practice social and emotional skills and recognise and learn to manage their feelings. It encourages co-operation, group discussion, turn-taking, problem-solving and respect.

    Intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation

    Both intrinsic (motivation from within) and extrinsic (outside motivation, such as rewards or sanctions) are important forms of behaviour management. Building intrinsic motivation is more difficult, but students will generally exhibit a higher rate of learning when they are motivated from within.

    Self-awareness of teachers

    Lastly, before stepping into a classroom, you need to be self-aware. Ask yourself, ‘How am I feeling today?’, ‘Am I in the right place?’ Positive behaviour begins with those who are leading the class. Model the behaviour you’d like to see your students mimic, if you are behaving in an emotionally intelligent way, then it’s more likely your class will follow suit. Teachers are ultimately responsible for creating and maintaining a positive learning environment.

    Supply Desk (a division of Education Placement Group) offers specialist support staff to work on a 1:1 or small group basis with pupils who might be disadvantaged, displaying behavioural issues or struggling with their learning. Supply Desk’s Special Education Needs and Disabilityand support specialists will work with individuals or groups of pupils for an agreed period to improve outcomes. The company also recently launched a reading intervention programme, ‘Love to Read’, which focuses on improving pupils’ comprehension skills. The ‘Love to Read’ programme has demonstrated clear improvements in pupil behaviour, emotional well-being and academic attainment.


    Stuart O'Brien

    All stories by: Stuart O'Brien

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published.