Social and emotional development underpins effective learning, positive behaviour and the judgements they make in and out of school. Schools need to be places where emotions are accepted as normal, unthreatening, discussed freely, expressed safely strategies and support are written in statements and policies. A successful strategy that has been introduced into schools is SEAL, SEAL stands for social, emotional aspects of learning, and this is a school programme that focuses on the development and the application of social and emotional skills. Not only does SEAL consider the needs of the children but also all that work in the setting, providing support for them to implement the strategies that it highlights. It’s important in the early years that practitioners understand that children develop at different rates; emotionally others are more mature than others. This is a similar situation for social development children that don’t have enough social experiences from a young age are less likely to be social in a classroom due to lack of confidence. The theorist Bowlby is most famous for his attachment theory he devised the term ‘maternal deprivation’ (Bowlby, n.d.) this was because he believed that if children were separated from their mothers at young age then they would be psychology damaged (Squire, 2007) this supports the theory that without enough social attachment and experiences in the early stages of life then children are more likely to be unconfident in social situations and find it harder to adapting to school life. The EYFS believe that all children are ready to learn. The EYFS (2012, pp.2) states that ‘Development is not an automatic process, however. It depends on each unique child having opportunities to interact with positive relationships and enabling environments’ being a unique child emphasises more on the fact that children do develop at different rates. So having relationships with people and being in a encouraging environment helps develop children socially and emotionally, this is why it’s essential practitioners and schools provide these are much as possible.
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It is proven that in the 21st century children are more likely to worry about family, school, friendships from two decades ago (Blake, 2007). This is a worrying result because most people have the view that childhood should be carefree and trouble free. Schools have more pressure now more than ever to ensure that children have a safe and worry free environment to learn in. Social development is promoted in all child care settings, teachers are using group tasks more and involving children as much as possible, if they realise that a child is withdrawn then action is taken to involve this child such as talking to them and introducing new provisions such as a ‘buddy system’ at play times so children can always have someone to socialise with. However when it comes to emotional development, I haven’t seen many provisions put into place to support this, some schools introduce schemes such as ’emotion sticks’ in which the children place their name in the pot with the emotion that they are feeling that day, this quickly faded out because the children forgot and the practitioners forgot to remind the children that they need to do this, circle time is a popular way that schools choose to support emotional development, this is very effective in the early years, unfortunately not every school use circle time often because they don’t have time and it won’t fit into their curriculum so it’s often put aside. One way in which some schools promote emotional and social development is interacting with the community in which they live in, this gives children the sense of belonging and a strong self-image, this in turn builds self-esteem, the higher their self-esteem is then the more confident the child will be, making the most of opportunities especially throughout the school, because they have already had the experience of being involved with the charity event or helping the elderly they will be more confident in the social aspect of new activities but also emotionally because they have more confidence in what they can do. The every child matters document supports this strategy, the ECM has a section titled ‘make a positive contribution’ helping the community is part of this.
There are several strategies that schools use to support emotional and social development, in order to keep these as effective as possible, the school need to review the strategies as often as needed to ensure that they are working, if a method isn’t working then another is chosen and used in the school. This can be done by monitoring the children whilst they are taking part in the strategies to see how they are using them, if they are engaged and involving themselves in them then this is a good sign however if a couple of children don’t feel comfortable or utilising the method as desired then a different approach may need to be taken. Reviewing the strategies every term is a good way to see how effective it is, another strategy can then be introduced in the next term, and once the method that is the most effective in the school for the pupils, teachers and parents then it can be used throughout the school, different age groups may also need different strategies, older children’s emotional and social developmental needs will be different to the early years, this needs to be taken in consideration when planning approaches. Some schools may end up with 2 or 3 different methods being used in the school.
One of the most recent strategies that schools use to support emotional and social development is the healthy schools scheme. This was set up to promote healthy eating and exercise in schools, not only does this promote concentration in the classrooms but it involves children in activities organised by the school, the way in which the schools implement this strategy is up to them, some may decide to use Activate or Wake Up Shake Up in their school day or by introducing healthy snacks at break and lunch time. ‘A Healthy School promotes the health and wellbeing of its pupils and staff through a well-planned, taught curriculum in a physical and emotional environment that promotes learning and healthy lifestyle choices’ (Departement of Health, 2007) This strategy was more important than ever in 2012 due to the London Olympic Games, children wanted to be more active in and out of schools, so having sports days and Olympic challenges was an ideal way to promote healthy schools further. The walking and cycling provisions that some schools use, involve the children in the community as well as being sociable, this supports the emotional and social development of children. However not all schools provide strategies such as these, some schools don’t have the funding whereas others don’t see it as an important aspect of children’s learning. When the scheme was first introduced thousands of schools took it on board however as the years have passed it’s become increasingly difficult for schools to motivate themselves to continue the strategy. In order for healthy schools to once again be a priority for schools, new ways of promoting healthy eating and exercise need to be put into place, schools could involve the children in this process, this would also make the children more motivated to actually do the activities because they have had an input. If a child is constantly being told that they are unhealthy therefore they need to take part in the schools activities, then their self-esteem is going to get lower and lower which has a considerable effect on the child’s emotional welfare, they will eventually have a negative view of themself, schools need to be aware of this and ensure that no child is told they are unhealthy or lazy, every child needs to take part in the scheme as much as possible.
In contrast to the recent impact of healthy schools, there has been numerous research and discussion about gender roles. There is the ultimate question of, are girls born automatically liking pink and boys liking blue? There will never be an exact answer to this question some will say it’s to do with nature whereas others will say affected by nurture. When children first come into a setting, they may feel pressure to go and play with the construction area if they are a boy or immediately go into the role play area if they are a girl. This attitude is changing and children are becoming more confident in their own decisions as to where they should play, however some parents heavily promote girls playing with dolls and putting on makeup the same is for boys, parents may want their son to play football or rugby which are heavily male influenced. This goes against the various strategies that schools are implementing to help prevent children feeling as though they don’t have an individual identity, which affects their emotional understanding. Dowling (2012, pp.159) agrees with this point ‘young children will only become confused if values at home and nursery are in direct opposition’ Every classroom should be gender neutral with pale walls, and pictures of girls and boys playing in the different areas of the classroom, providing activities that both girls and boys can play with for example not just providing colouring pages for girls but for boys as well. However even though this method is being implemented, the media still goes against a gender neutral environment, portraying women in Disney films as being helpless and in danger and having a dashing knight coming to save the day, this gives children the perception that women are weaker and less brave then men. However this attitude will almost never be changed, companies know what makes them money and if it means giving children mixed views about themselves then they will continue to do it. It’s essential that schools continue to use the action that they are taking to help prevent these views coming into schools. Not only is it important that classrooms are inclusive, the practitioners also need have an understanding and agreement about inclusion, in order to provide equal opportunities for every child (Beaty, 2006)
One of the most effective provisions that schools have introduced is circle time. Jenny Mosley is the brains behind the whole school approach towards circle time. Good behaviour management is key when doing circle time, the children need to know the rules that surround circle time, it’s a trusting place where the children can communicate with each other and discussing issues that they feel are important and is also a great opportunity for children to socialise with the rest of the class. Circle time can also be used as a anti bullying technique, if children aren’t getting along in or out of the classroom then this strategy can be used to give the children the opportunity to talk about their issues, this also opens their eyes to the fact that they may of really upset the other children, providing emotional awareness that a child’s actions may affect another child and they may not even know it. Circle time works best when it’s not done too often; having circle time every day would be boring for the children and the teacher and would lose the desired effect. It provides opportunities to learn how to listen and respect others; it’s also an emotionally safe place for children to be in with trusting people and a comfortable environment. (Circle Time, n.d.) However because circle time is the most effective when it’s done regularly, it can be easy to forget the routine of circle time missing circle time several weeks in a row can effect children because they may have something specific they want to say in circle time and don’t get the opportunity to say it because the teacher has forgotten about circle time, this can be easily resolved the children could be responsible for reminding the teacher about circle time, having a day activity planner in a visible place that consists of pictures and words so the children can see what they are doing also, is a good way to inform that circle time will be happening, reassuring the children. Circle time additionally provides important time for children and practitioners to develop a trusting and positive relationship; this is why circle time is especially important in the first couple of weeks of term.
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The professional relationship between parents and teachers is just as important, parents and carers need to know that their child is safe and happy in the setting, if a parent has concerns about their child then the teacher is the first person that they will go to, for example if a parent thinks that their child is being bullied by another child in the class then the teacher and parent can work together to think of techniques to use in order to stop this happening, circle time could be one of the strategies used. A method that was used in a school to promote the relationships between child and teacher and parent and teacher was stay and play. This occurred once a week and parents or relatives had the choice to join in on activities in the classroom, it would start off by the teacher explaining what the activities were for, how they linked in with the curriculum and what the parents could do to further encourage the learning at home, the stay and play session lasted for 45 minutes, the teacher answered any questions that they were asked, and the children enjoyed playing with the various activities in the classroom with the support from parents and teachers. This was a very effective strategy used in this school, and they can continue to maintain the building relationships by having parent councils like the one in Bruce Grove Primary School, they found a parent council very effective it provided opportunities for parents to communicate with one another and have their input into how they wanted their children to learn. This continues the positive relationship between schools and parents/carers, its essential that there is constant communication because they both want the children to learn and develop to the best of their ability, when children see the positive relationship between their parents and their teacher, it makes them comfortable around the teacher.
Not only is the relationships within school important but the environment is equally important, the EYFS’ approach to the unique child consists of positive relationships and an enabling environment. An environment that provides opportunities and exploration also needs to make the child feel safe and secure. These positive environments from the EYFS (2012, pp.2) explain that they need to have ‘stimulating resources, relevant to all the children’s cultures and communities’ successfully combining play and learning especially in early years settings, this is important because then children will link learning with being fun. Not only do schools need to support children with their emotional and social development but they also need to support them to take risks and explore new environments, children learn the most effectively through personal experiences so promoting these gives children more confidence in their abilities and having a better perception of themself. Positive relationships and enabling environments ensures learning and development. Observing, assessing and planning ensures that strategies work in the setting and meet the children’s individual needs. Each section of the EYFS document are individual however they are all underpinned by the basic factors to successfully support children’s social and emotional development. Every unique child needs positive relationships from every direction; parents, teachers and fellow peers. Enabling environments that are supportive and positive these together will equal to learning and development.
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