Implementing Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning (SEAL) in Secondary Schools in England: Issues and Implications

  • Ann Lendrum

Student thesis: Phd


Implementing Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning (SEAL) in Secondary Schools in England: Issues and Implications The Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning (SEAL) initiative for secondary schools was launched in England in 2007 as part of the Secondary National Strategy for School Improvement. Designed as a universal, whole-school approach for the development of key social and emotional skills, SEAL was expected to improve behaviour, attendance, attainment and the emotional health and well-being of all members of the school community (DfES, 2007a). Research studies examining the implementation of school-based interventions have revealed, however, that they are rarely implemented as intended by the programme developers (Berman and McLaughlin, 1976) and that this is likely to negatively impact upon the achievement of the expected outcomes (Durlak and DuPre, 2008). Implementation is typically variable between settings due to local adaptations or modifications (Blakely et al, 1987) and challenges to implementation at a range of levels, including programme, classroom and school (Greenberg et al, 2005).This longitudinal study examined the processes of implementation of SEAL in five case study schools in the north-west of England. The primary aims were to: (i) identify both positive and negative factors affecting implementation so that any necessary improvements to SEAL may be made prior to its broader dissemination; (ii) support future practitioners in the implementation of SEAL by highlighting effective strategies and potential challenges; (iii) expand understanding of the processes of implementation of school-based interventions in English educational contexts.Schools were visited five times during the first two years of the implementation of SEAL; lessons were observed, relevant documents reviewed and interviews conducted with a range of staff, pupils and Local Education Authority representatives. Data was analysed thematically using a combination of a priori and emergent themes. As anticipated, implementation was variable between schools; this was in the detail of implementation, however, and broader convergences were seen in the barriers presented and the non-implementation of key processes and elements. None of the schools were able to fully implement SEAL. Challenges to implementation were identified at all levels examined (programme, classroom and school) and included programme characteristics, staff resistance, insufficient training, lack of time and competing initiatives. The interaction of negative and positive factors both within and between levels suggested, however, that no one factor may be considered dominant.This study concluded that until programme level issues and shared contextual factors such as initiative overload are addressed, then the full implementation of SEAL in secondary schools is unlikely to be achieved. The University of Manchester 2010 Ann Lendrum PhD Education
Date of Award1 Aug 2011
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorNeil Humphrey (Supervisor) & Peter Farrell (Supervisor)


  • Implementation School-based interventions
  • Social and emotional learning

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