NGN recommends SEMH becomes a more integrated part of initial teacher training

1 February 2018 


On the 31 January, we launched the second edition of the Nurture Portrait, providing a snapshot of the social emotional and behavioural difficulties experienced by children and young people in the UK. Yesterday, we shared with you the findings that 1 in 6 children have high levels of social emotional difficulties, and 1 in 5 have high levels of behavioural difficulties. More details can be found in our blog post.

What does this look like in an average class?

In a typical classroom of 30 pupils, primary school teachers would have 4 children who have high levels of both social emotional, and behavioural difficulties, and an additional 7 children with one type of difficulty (either social emotional, or behavioural). See Figure 1. 

In other words, 1/3 of children have high levels of need that impact on their mental health and wellbeing. More than delivering the curriculum, teachers are managing a wide range of social emotional difficulties that hinder their pupils' learning and academic performance.

Figure 1. Levels of social emotional and behavioural needs in an average class of 30 pupils, based on data collected from 26 primary schools and 5,414 pupils in England. Children's social emotional and behavioural needs were measuring using the Boxall Profile.

The findings also show that 43% of children with high levels of social emotional and behavioural difficulties do not access any form of wellbeing or mental health support either within or outside school, according to teacher reports. These children are therefore left to deal with their needs, and are at a much greater risk of developing more complex mental health and wellbeing issues in the future. 

Figure 2. Level of mental health and wellbeing support according to children's social emotional and behavioural difficulties.
27% of pupils with one type of difficulty (eith social emotional, or behavioural) received support, and only 49% of children experiencing both types of difficulties received support. 

We know that teachers do not feel confident to support children with these difficulties. A recent survey from the Anna Freud Centre showed that more than 50% of teachers felt they didn't have adequate training to know what to do when a child had a mental health problem (The Guardian, 21 Sept 2017). NGN's Chief Executive Kevin Kibble is therefore advocating for more effective teacher training to empower teachers and allow them to better support the wellbeing of their pupils.

At the launch of the Nurture Portrait 2016/17, Kevin said: 

"Teachers should be equipped with a better understanding of the importance of social emotional wellbeing and need effective tools to help them make social and emotional learning a part of everyday classroom activity."

Teachers using a nurturing approach in their practice can provide early support to children experiencing difficulties, making sure the classroom is a safe and inclusive environment where every child can learn. 


To find out more about our recommendations and the findings of the Nurture Portrait, you can download the full report here.

If you have questions regarding the research included in the Nurture Portrait, please contact Dr Florence Ruby at