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Hungerhill School

SEMH (Social, Emotional & Mental Health)



This term is used when a pupil's ongoing behavioural difficulties appear to have their root cause in emotional or possibly social problems. It is important to remember that some children and young people have such deep-rooted emotional difficulties that these may manifest themselves in unusual quietness, rather than disruptive behaviour.

Some emotional and behavioural problems may be temporary and can be dealt with using standard pastoral strategies. But others are so complex that outside professionals need to be involved to help the pupil cope with daily living and learning.

A variety of praise and reward strategies is often useful and it is important to raise self-esteem at every opportunity. It may also be helpful to consider making a home visit or arrange to see the parents/carers in school and involve them in agreeing a home-school programme of action.

It is advisable to consider the wellbeing of all the other pupils in the class, as well as any adults who work with a child with emotional and behavioural difficulties.

Key Characteristics 

Children with social and emotional difficulties may:

• find it difficult to form friendships

• often appear preoccupied and therefore find it difficult to get involved in activities

• have difficulty keeping on task

• have difficulty taking part in group activities and discussion

• often become tearful or throw tantrums for no apparent reason

• have psychosomatic illnesses

• have low self-esteem and often become victims of bullies

• become bullies themselves

• be aggressive and disruptive

• find it difficult to conform to classroom rules and routines

• be excessively attention-seeking through either negative behaviour or clinginess

• sometimes have school phobia

• underachieve in many areas of the school curriculum.

Support Strategies 

You may need to:

• ensure a consistent approach to the child's behavioural difficulties by all members of staff by developing positive behaviour management strategies

• encourage the provision of a positive classroom environment

• have group and class discussions (circle time) to focus on problems and give all children opportunities to air their views in a controlled environment

• set up small social skills groups for pupils who have difficulties in particular areas, such as anger management or relating to other children

• develop social interaction through games and paired problem-solving activities

• give short, clearly defined tasks

• encourage the development of ICT skills to increase motivation

• provide activities that encourage the building of self-esteem

• give pupils opportunities to express their feelings through the use of puppets or role-play in pairs or small groups

• develop positive links between older and younger pupils

• arrange for support input from the educational psychologist or the behavioural support team (such as implementing the circle of friends approach to promote inclusion)

• arrange for counselling or family support provision usually through either the Educational Welfare Service, the Family Centre or the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).

Support Agencies and Links 


Social, Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties Association:  

Young Minds: