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Valence School

Social, Emotional and Mental Health



I am Naomi Botha, 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 These may include becoming withdrawn or isolated, as well as displaying challenging, disruptive or disturbing behaviour.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



As part of the initial visit, the Specialist Teacher will explore with others involved with the child or young person what is working well or what could be improved in supporting them. This might also include a discussion with the child or young person and parent/s or carer/s. Once the Specialist Teacher has met with the child or young person and explored what their barriers to learning are, they will work closely with the teaching team to ensure that despite these difficulties, with appropriate adaptations, they are able to access the same curriculum as their peers. The Specialist Teacher will meet with the class teacher or SENCO to agree targets that will support them and enable them to access learning. They will also discuss any additional resources or one to one support the child or young person might need. Often teachers will use these strategies with other learners in their class. Sometimes the Specialist Teacher may also advise a short-term targeted intervention outside of the classroom to develop specific skills, e.g. to follow a social skills or anger management programme. If needed, staff training will be suggested for a particular intervention. A date/time would normally be agreed and set with all involved to review the targets and actions that have been recorded in the Record of Visit.  This would be timed to allow for actions to be implemented and progress to be seen over an appropriate period of time.

This would be documented in a Record of Visit, emailed to the school SENCO to be passed on to the class teacher. A hard copy of the Record of Visit will be sent by the school to the parent/s. The class teacher will be expected to adapt the plans to reflect these new targets and strategies. These will also be forwarded to parent/s.

The Specialist Teacher will normally return to the school for the review visit and discuss how things have been, any progress for each of the targets set.  They would discuss the effectiveness of the actions set at the last visit and if any other actions need to be added.  The Specialist Teacher would then check how helpful it would be to set another review visit if needed and agree the date with others before leaving.   

The Specialist Teacher will carry out further review visits to see whether the children and young people is making progress with the targets that have been set and address any issues that have arisen. If the school feel that the plan is going well, and the child or young person is making progress, the case may be closed. Sometimes there might be more than one review visit, depending on the complexity of needs.



Before accessing support from the Specialist Teaching and Learning Service, schools are expected to have followed the Graduated Response (Assess, Plan, Do, Review) and established that, despite good quality teaching and targeted support, the child or young person has still not made progress. Schools should also follow the Sevenoaks Inclusion Flowchart and Inclusion Guidance which follows the Graduated Response. 

This may then indicate that despite good quality teaching and targeted support, the child or young person appears to have longer lasting social, emotional or mental health difficulties which may indicate that they have special educational needs.


Where there are concerns, there should be an assessment to determine whether there are any causal factors such as undiagnosed learning difficulties, difficulties with communication or mental health issues.

Initially, schools are required to identify possible social, emotional or mental health difficulties through their usual assessment processes, seeking to identify children and young people making less than expected progress given their age and individual circumstances. Discussions should take place with others who know the child or young person i.e. parents/carers/school staff to understand the history of the difficulty, what helps and what doesn’t help to resolve issues and to plan resolutions together. This will include looking at home issues, the school environment, whole school policies and practices, assessing and reviewing the quality of teaching and support in the child or young person’s class using guidance materials issued by KCC.

School staff may engage in further assessments/observations and screenings to clarify the nature of the concern. A Risk assessment should be carried out if appropriate. Additional staff training may be required (e.g. de-escalation techniques or Mental Health First Aid).


The information gained through assessment and discussion will be documented by the school and may be recorded on a Pastoral Support Plan to show what everyone will do to improve things for the child or young person.

Class teachers need to plan for any adaptations which need to be put in place to support their behaviour and learning, to enable them to access the curriculum and make progress at school.

Plans might involve:

Changing things at home and school i.e. teaching strategies that calm the child/young person and encouraging them to do this increasingly independently across a range of situations

Offering opportunity to work/play away from peers if difficulty managing interaction with them i.e. workstation, structured play, additional adult supervision 

Offering opportunities to develop successful relationship with peers i.e. adult mentoring, setting roles in group work, managing seating plan to encourage successful interactions

This could be helped by additional targeted support, such as anger management sessions or a course in social skills. This should be recorded on a Provision Map or Personalised Plan. If the child or young person is considered a risk of harm to themselves or to others, the school would normally also complete a Risk Assessment to clarify ways of reducing the risk. 

We have provided links to useful resources and recommended websites to help you to put appropriate support plans in place.


Schools should allow time for new strategies to be carried out over a period of at least a term. This is the responsibility of the class teacher with support from the SENCO and Senior Leadership as appropriate. Staff trained in de-escalation techniques or Mental Health First Aid may need to support the child or young person.


The class teacher with the SENCO, child or young person and parents should regularly review the Pastoral Support / Personalised Plans and Risk Assessments. The impact and quality of the support and interventions should be evaluated, along with the views of the child or young person and their parents. This should feed back into the analysis of their needs. The class or subject teacher, working with the SENCO, should revise the support in light of the child or young person’s progress and development, deciding on any changes to the support and outcomes. This should be done in consultation with the parent and child or young person.

At this stage it may be decided that it would be appropriate to refer to a Drop-In, Local Inclusion Forum Team (LIFT) meeting or to other professionals for further support.

If it is thought housing, family or other domestic circumstances may be contributing to the presenting behaviour, a multi-agency approach may be appropriate, supported by the use of approaches such as the Early Help Assessment.



When and how to access support from the Sevenoaks Specialist Teacher for Social and Emotional Mental Health (SEMH)?

Schools can access support at a SEMH Drop-In session or at a Local Inclusion Forum Team (LIFT) meeting.

Parental Agreement to Engage is required before these sessions can take place.

Before accessing support, schools are expected to have followed the Graduated Response (Assess, Plan, Do, Review) and established that, despite good quality teaching and targeted support, the child or young person has still not made progress.Schools will also need to provide evidence of what they have put in place with an evaluation of impact on a Personalised Plan or a Pastoral Support Plan (PSP).

Local Inclusion Forum Team (LIFT) Meetings

LIFT meetings are held weekly during term time. SENCOs (with the agreement of parents) can refer children and young people for discussion and access advice and strategies to the LIFT forum, chaired by the Specialist Teaching and Learning Service Lead. Participants may include an Educational Psychologist, a Specialist Teacher, a Speech and Language Therapist, an Attendance and Inclusion Advisor, Early Help and SENCOs.  

Discussion at a Drop-In session or LIFT meeting will help the school to:

ASSESS           gather ideas for further strategies

PLAN                write or revise the child or young person’s personalised                                                                                              education or pastoral support plan with new outcomes or targets

DO                      evaluate the best ways of carrying out the suggested strategies

REVIEW           review progress to date and decide whether it is appropriate to                                                                               refer to other agencies or for statutory assessment

Following a LIFT discussion, it may be decided that it would be helpful for the Specialist Teacher for SEMH to visit the child or young person in their school. The Specialist Teacher for Social, Emotional and Mental Health is:

Steve Sherrell - Specialist Teacher for SEMH based a Valence School in Westerham

Once allocated to a child or young person, the Specialist Teacher will contact the school SENCO by email to arrange a visit within 2 weeks. The Specialist Teacher will discuss with the school the best way to manage the time of that visit.  It may include an observation, a meeting with the child or young person, discussion with school staff and if thought appropriate, parents/carers. In this case the school will arrange this directly with parents.



The Social and Emotional Mental Health (SEMH) Specialist Teacher for Sevenoaks delivers a variety of training sessions for teaching staff, professionals and parents including: 

De-escalation (Emotional Regulation training). This training aims to develop understanding of emotional difficulties as well as an awareness of ways to support safe practice in schools. Delegates will be taught to how to enable learners to support self-regulation by developing strategies for use in school or at home.

Some great stragtegies suggested that we, as a school, can be put in place.

The Boxall Profile, This workshop takes you to the heart of the Boxall Profile and will enable you to develop a precise and accurate profile of a child’s social and emotional needs and plan effective interventions and support activities. We will ensure that individual time is available to each delegate and case studied. You will be asked to complete a copy of the Boxall Profile for a student in your school/setting to bring to the workshop

Motivated to get up and running on the Boxall Profile. Steve is always interested in us getting the most out of the course. Thank you.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). This training aims to develop practitioner’s understanding of ADHD, to reflect on values held and to enable them to reflect on implications and possible strategies for classroom practice

Good detailed understanding of ADHD.

Adapting the Curriculum to include learners with SEND. This day course is aimed mainly at Key Stage 2 teachers and school leaders and is delivered by the STLS Team. A mixture of information-giving, time for sharing good practice, reflection and workshops will give teachers greater confidence in planning and adapting whole class lessons to include learners with SEND.

Feeling much more confident that small changes can have a significant impact for these children with SEND and will positively impact other children in the classroom.

Most training usually takes place at Valence School and can be booked online

Bespoke INSET and twilight training sessions are also available for school staff on request to the individual requirements of the school. Please complete the Bespoke Training Interest Form and clearly state your requirements.

We also run course, specialised training events and conferences from time to time with invited outside speakers. Details can be found on the Sevenoaks STLS Schools Training Calendar.