Social-emotional learning can boost academic results by 11%

Social and emotional competencies have been found to be a more significant determinant of academic attainment than IQ.


By Pete Read, CEO & Founder

As reported in The Guardian this week: "Emotional wellbeing is fundamental and foundational for academic attainment. A stressed, anxious child will have difficulty learning anything. On the flip side, promoting wellbeing can boost academic outcomes. A meta-analysis of 213 school-based, social and emotional learning programmes demonstrated an 11% boost in results in standardised achievement tests."

This may seem to be common sense, but historically many schools have put direct effort on academic attainment first, and treated wellbeing and social-emotional learning as an added extra, or something to be dealt with only when issues arise. There is in fact reliable empirical evidence supporting the case for treating wellbeing as a 'vitamin' rather than a 'sticking plaster'.


Emotions can support or impede pupils’ learning, their academic engagement, work ethic, commitment, and ultimate school success, according to the research referred to by the Guardian, above. This was a meta-analysis of a wide body of existing research, conducted by Public Health England in 2014. 

Conclusions included:

  • An 11% boost in results in standardised achievement tests has been linked to improving pupils’ social-emotional learning

  • Whole-school approaches to social-emotional learning strongly correlate with higher attainment

  • School-based social-emotional learning programmes benefit pupils’ wellbeing, offering a significant return for the resource and time investment

  • Ofsted identified a strong correlation between schools that achieved a high grade for personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE) and those that were graded outstanding for overall effectiveness

So, whether your school is aiming to achieve great things academically, or turn out well-balanced students with great wellbeing – or both – an investment of focus, time and budget in a solid social-emotional programme will serve you and your students well.  


Persona Education offers free access to its Persona Life Skills e-learning platform for secondary schools and colleges interested in developing their students’ social-emotional life skills, to boost wellbeing and employability. 

About the author: Pete Read is CEO and Founder of Persona Education. He is on a mission to boost the wellbeing, employability and success of young people globally. Pete started Persona because he wanted to introduce the benefits of personality insights that he himself had experienced, to teenagers, at an age when they increasingly need help with getting to know themselves, understanding others, developing social-emotional life skills and making better decisions in the life challenges they all face.

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