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Supporting Children in Kent with Special Educational Needs and Disability

Social, Emotional and Mental Health

I am Steve Sherrell, the Sevenoaks Specialist Teacher for Social and Emotional Mental Health. I support primary and secondary schools in the Sevenoaks District.

What do we mean by Social, Emotional and Mental Health (SEMH)?

‘Children and young people may experience a wide range of social and emotional difficulties which manifest themselves in many ways. These may include becoming withdrawn or isolated, as well as displaying challenging, disruptive or disturbing behaviour. These behaviours may reflect underlying mental health difficulties such as anxiety or depression, self-harming, substance misuse, eating disorders or physical symptoms that are medically unexplained. Other children and young people may have disorders such as attention deficit disorder, attention deficit hyperactive disorder or attachment disorder.’ SEND Code of Practice

There is a significant area change from the previous Code of Practice: the descriptor ‘Social, Emotional and Mental Health’ (SEMH) has replaced the 2001 Special Educational Needs Code of Practice’s ‘Behaviour, Emotional and Social Difficulties (BESD)’. This reflects the change in thinking around causes of ‘challenging behaviour’ and growing concern about young people’s mental health. Where there is persistent disruptive behaviour, there may be other causal issues such as undiagnosed learning difficulties, difficulties with communication or mental health issues, resulting in less than expected progress academically or socially in school.

It is recognised that children and young people with SEMH difficulties may also sometimes have social communication or learning difficulties. These may be in addition to or as a result of their SEMH difficulties.

‘Professionals should also be alert to other events that can lead to learning difficulties or wider mental health difficulties, such as bullying or bereavement. Such events will not always lead to children having SEN, but it can have an impact on wellbeing and sometimes this can be severe. Schools should ensure they make appropriate provision for a child’s short-term needs in order to prevent problems escalating. Where there are long-lasting difficulties schools should consider whether the child might have SEN’ SEND Code of Practice

Children and young people who are identified as having SEMH difficulties may:

  • Have difficulty using strategies to self-regulate their emotions and may be prone to anger
  • Need to excessively control situations and other people
  • Find it difficult to manage their relationships with others i.e. adults/other children and young people appropriately