You may have heard the term SEMH, when referring to your child’s education. Which has probably raised a few questions: what is SEMH and what does SEMH stand for? Firstly, SEMH stands for Social, Emotion and Mental Health, and many schools claim to have an emphasis on SEMH within their school ethos – however, what is it and what does a good SEMH setting actually look like?
As mentioned above, SEMH stands for Social, Emotional and Mental Health. Although this is an extremely broad topic, it should still be taken seriously in all educational establishments. Schools with the best SEMH precautions will work with numerous external professionals to cater for the diverse needs of every student in their establishment. Each child should have access to a wide range of therapies, such as counsellors and other mental health professionals – some education establishments also get involved with charities and voluntary groups that can help to provide opportunities for children who may need to access further support. For this reason, it is important to ask questions when looking into SEMH schools, such as, what external partnerships do they have to benefit each of the children.
If a school is a specialist SEMH school, the staff should have the highest level of knowledge and should know and put into practice excellent SEMH theory. These settings should only employ staff who have a passion for this area of education and existing knowledge on what the needs and requirements of each child might be. However, each teacher and staff member should also be expected to keep up to date with any new training, and schools should offer this to every member of staff where appropriate.
A school which either specialises in SEMH or integrates it into their ethos will recognise the importance of relationships throughout the whole school; including the relationships between students and teachers, students with one another and staff relationships. Excellent relationships with staff members will allow for better communication in the school, resulting in students having consistent and reliable support. Children with SEMH needs require emotional stability, so it is essential that everyone working within the setting reflects this.
Maintaining good relationships all starts with having effective management. Management in any school creates a friendly, fair, and respectable environment for not only children, but staff alike. A school that takes SEMH seriously will have a visible and active senior management team that consists of passionate and vocal people who care a lot about SEMH needs. This management team should trust their staff and keep them feeling empowered – genuine compassion and interest in every member of staff is essential in a management role.
The policies within a SEMH school setting will have evidence of a unique and innovative way of thinking, in order to meet the complex needs of its students and young people. Given the nature of a SEMH school, behavioural policies are a keen focus and meeting the needs of students, while also preventing poor behaviour from impacting others, to keep everyone safe at all times, is essential. Across all of the policies, safeguarding and wellbeing is at the heart of them all.
The curriculum of a SEMH school needs to be creative and flexible, to cater for its pupils needs. There are a wide range of qualifications and extra-curricular activities that help to balance the needs or each individual child. For a lot of children who attend SEMH schools, they will need help to develop key skills to build solid emotional and intellectual foundations.
Each school will have their policies outlined on their website, so it is always worth taking a look at them before making decision on what schools to visit. If you plan to visit a mainstream school, always ask about their SEMH policies.
You don’t necessarily have to be looking at a SEMH specialist school, some people choose to look for mainstream schools with excellent SEMH provisions. We recommend visiting schools you think might be ideal for your child (or children) and ask the necessary questions; after all, you need to make sure your child is getting the best education possible, and an establishment should recognise each of their individual needs.
If you suspect your child needs a bit of extra support, but aren’t sure where to start, Twinkl have some incredible SEMH resources available for you to try out. Alternatively, if your child is of school age, you can chat to their teachers and ask them what the best approach is regarding your child’s wellbeing.