Why is emotional health and well being impacting on children’s Educational success?

In the past educators have put great importance on a child’s academic abilities and how they ‘perform’ in task that test cognitive intelligence.  However a child’s abilities to succeed at school rely on more than how well they can sit, listen and relay what the teacher is teaching.  Research and theory now recognise and put great importance upon emotional intelligence (i.e. intrapersonal and interpersonal intelligences), and how these affects a child’s abilities.  These writings highlight empathy and communicating effectively (these social and emotional abilities) can have more importance over conventional intelligences (Secondary National Strategy, 2007).  These abilities are important in regards to the way individuals act, behave and feel about others.  Therefore as soon as you get children together in an environment, their interactions with each other, will affect all aspects of their ‘being’.  A child’s emotional well being then becomes relevant to every aspect of their lives, including their educational experience.  This is often a child’s first opportunity to use and develop these social and emotional skills.

Children who experience unfortunate or traumatic experiences (abuse, death, illness, bullying, divorce etc) can struggle within an educational context.  Indeed the outcomes for later life can also be greatly affected and may lead to damaged self-esteem, poverty, social exclusion and emotional dysfunction, all of which have become of great concern for British government and therefore there is great political interest in promoting individuals emotional well being, and happiness.  As a result many educators look to helping and supporting children with developing their feelings and emotions. 

The Governments task force surrounding children and young people’s mental health looks at improving services that are provided for children and young people, how these are organised, commissioned and provided.  Making it easier for young people, schools and parents to access the right help and support (www.gov.uk).

Mental health means how a person feels, how they cope with things in their life and people.  1 out of every 10 children needs help for their mental health.  Without the relevant help and support a person is more likely to smoke, abuse drugs and alcohol and part take in risky sexual activities.  Have mental health problems in adulthood and not so well within an educational context.  The taskforce gathered information from children/young people, parents/carers, and metal health practitioners, which recognised that there is not enough information about the services that are available, children are having to wait longer to receive support and that where an individual lives affects how long people need to wait to get help (Department of Health, 2015).  To help combat these problems, by 2020 the Government want to provide the relevant services for children and their families and that this is received at the right time. The right services will be provided as near to their home as possible, parents are supported in how they can make their children have good mental health and to feel safe and secure.  Services are transparent about costs and waiting lists, practitioners and trained and provide the support that needed.  Better support is provided for the most vulnerable groups i.e. looked after children and children with special educational needs (Department of Health, 2015).

If schools, educators and child care practitioners want children to succeed academically, they have to put a child’s emotional well being and happiness above academic success.  Without proper help and support towards their mental health and well being, it is difficult for any formal learning to be processed.  The brains’ of the children, who have experienced trauma, do not function in the same as those children who have not.  They rely more on impulse and react to certain situations because the part of the brain that is rational (frontal cortex) has not had the same opportunity to develop.  In this case many children have learnt behaviour strategies are used instead of talking about their feelings and emotions. 

Play Therapy allows children to have an opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings in an accepting and non judgmental environment.  Children are given the space and time to deal with difficulties that they are unable to express verbally.  This enables children to solve their own problems in a way that it not offered as part of the curriculum or in a normal school day. 

Author: Mrs Charlene Campbell B.A (Hons), MEd, Qualified Play Therapist

Charlene has an undergraduate degree in Psychology and Sociology and an MEd in the Psychology of Education. She has expertise in child development, learning processes and Education. Charlene has experience in working with children who display challenging behaviour within an Educational context. She has delivered interventions within schools to children, who were unable to fully access the curriculum, due to their social and emotional difficulties (breaking down barriers to learning to improve outcomes). For 10 years she worked with Looked After Children in a residential home ensuring that all aspects of their social, emotional, physical and educational needs were being met. Charlene is also a Clinical Play Therapist.



Secondary National Strategy. (2007).  Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning (SEAL): Guidance booklet.  Department of Education and Skills

Department of Health.  (2015).  www.gov.uk