The Centre for Evidence and Social Innovation (CESI), with the Public Health Agency and the Department of Education, recently hosted a half-day seminar and discussion on what works to improve children’s social emotional learning and wellbeing.


The event, that took place on 27th November 2017 at Riddel Hall, was heavily over-subscribed, reflecting the significant interest amongst teachers, health-care professionals and representatives from a range of NGOs and children’s organisations.

Participants heard the results of two important studies that have examined the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of two major school-based interventions - Roots of Empathy and also Nurture Groups - on social emotional learning (SEL) outcomes of children in Northern Ireland. The CESI team also presented emerging findings from a major systematic review and meta-analysis that it is leading, that is synthesising the international evidence on the effectiveness of school-based SEL programmes.

Contextualising the findings of these three presentations, Mary Black CBE, Assistant Director of Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement at the Public Health Agency, outlined the broader cross-departmental and inter-agency approach to improving wellbeing amongst children and young people in Northern Ireland. Participants also heard from Caroline Gillan, Director of Inclusion and Wellbeing in the Department of Education regarding the Department’s plans in this area.

Speaking of the event, Dr Sarah Miller, Deputy Director and Lead of the What Works for Schools strand of CESI said: “We are delighted with the turnout today and the huge interest amongst a wide-range of professionals, agencies and organisations in what works for improving children’s social and emotional learning.”

“The collaborative nature of this event, demonstrates CESI’s commitment to working with government agencies and departments to promote the better use of evidence to improve the lives of children, families and communities. We also heard invaluable feedback from participants regarding the findings of our research, their priorities and the issues and challenges that lie ahead.”

Dr Miller added: “Reflecting the major interest that exists regionally in relation to social and emotional learning, this is just one of a programme of activities we will be organising over the coming year to help build greater awareness of the role of schools in promoting SEL and to facilitate further debates concerning how this might best be facilitated through policy and practice.”  

Details of the presentations given at the event are provided below. The powerpoint slides for each of these will be made available here, shortly. For further details please contact Dr Sarah Miller at:


A Public Health Perspective
Mary Black CBE, Assistant Director of Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement, Public Health Agency 

Roots of Empathy Evaluation
Professor Paul Connolly, Centre for Evidence and Social Innovation

Roots of Empathy Reflections
Mary Gordon, President, Roots of Empathy

Nurture Groups Evaluation
Dr Seaneen Sloan, Visiting Fellow, Centre for Evidence and Social Innovation 

The International Evidence on What Works for School-Based SEL Programmes
Dr Jennifer Hanratty, Centre for Evidence and Social Innovation

A Department of Education Perspective
Caroline Gillan, Director of Inclusion and Wellbeing, Department of Education



Back to the Top