A Teacher’s Guide To: SEMH & BESD

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Terms like SEMH and BESD are very important words in a modern teacher’s vocabulary. Knowing what they mean, their indicators and how to handle SEMH and BESD students is what makes a good teacher great.

SEMH - Social, Emotional & Mental Health

The social, emotional, and mental health of students is a responsibility teachers need to take seriously and understand how to spot SEMH issues in children and how to improve the SEMH of their students.

Spotting the signs of SEMH issues

These are the tell-tale signs to keep an eye out for to identify SEMH issues:

  • Emotional detachment from others and difficulties forming and maintaining friendships
  • Fear of interacting with others
  • Outbursts and sudden mood swings
  • Fighting others, signs of self-harm and bullying
  • Weight loss or signs of eating disorders
  • A decrease in the ability to concentrate
  • Unusual changes in behaviour
  • Evidence of substance abuse

How you can help

As a teacher there are a few things you can do to help your students exhibit signs of SEMH problems. If your school has a guidance counsellor, you should consult them or arrange a meeting with them and the student to discuss any issues at home or school.

Take a firm stand against bullying. Students that are seen bullying others must be punished accordingly and that behaviour must be stamped out immediately. Bullying is a major contributing factor to the downfall of a student’s SEMH. Students who are being bullied must be encouraged to talk to someone about it and receive the appropriate support.

Should you deem it necessary to involve the student’s parents, then be sure to contact them and inform them of any of the above signs you may have seen. Often student SEMH problems are from their home life and not just their school life.

As a teacher, you can implement positive SEMH teach strategies. Try mixing up the tasks you do in class, introduce something new or some variety for a while and see how this impacts the attitude of your students. However, in saying this there is also value in being predictable. Mixing up your tasks or teaching style does not necessarily mean changing everything and becoming unpredictable. A predictable structure and a calm classroom environment help anxious students feel safe. How you handle your class depends on the way you teach and your students.

Praising students who need praise and giving all your students an equal amount of attention is good practice for maintaining your class’s SEMH. Here’s a helpful tip, praise as much as you scold. Do not let your students think you will only pay attention to them if they act out, be sure to call out and reward good work and accomplishments.

BESD - Behavioural, Emotional & Social Development

Students with behavioural issues can often have conditions like ADHD, autism, ODD and other such conditions that affect their ability to concentrate and their ability to communicate and take in information. Emotional difficulties can come from a mixture of anxiety, mental health, addictions, and depression. These emotional difficulties often interlink with some of the previously mentioned behavioural conditions. Social issues may relate to neglect, background, feeling unsafe at home and other home-life related problems. These influence how students think and feel about themselves, school, and others.

Effects BESD issues can have on students

Students with BESD may exhibit the same signs as students with SEMH difficulties as well, but there the most prominent indicators of BESD troubles include:

  • Anger and frustration
  • Absenteeism
  • Social isolation
  • Inability to establish and maintain friendships
  • Irregular interactions with friends and other students

Best ways to manage BESD problems

  • How you manage student behaviour is a key part of effectively keeping students with BESD conditions under control.
  • Pick your battles. If you challenge your student every time, they step out of line you will always be on their case. Ask yourself what is important to weed out and what can be ignored without disturbing the class.
  • Getting in the last word is more important than you may think. Ending discussions with a sharp, authoritative phrase shows that you are in control and will not tolerate acting out. “End of discussion”, “that’s the final word” and, “no more on this” are strong examples of things you can say. It is important to maintain a position of authority and respect for students with BESD problems.
  • Removing the audience is an excellent strategy. Many students who act out are doing so for attention. Talking to them outside the classroom and away from the others ends the “performance” and takes away all the attention they wanted.
  • Don’t punish fidgeting. Students with BESD often find it hard to sit still. While it may get on the nerves of some after a while, fidgeting actually can help BESD students stay focused.
  • Positivity. Positivity is often a better long-term solution for managing BESD student behaviour than punishing them often. Rewarding good behaviour and setting goals for them is a good way to instil a good learning ethic and can build a strong bond with your BESD students.
  • Getting to know them. Getting to know BESD students can be a comfort for them, and they will be less likely to act out in classes taught by teachers they trust and respect. This is also a good motivation tool. If you find a way to bond with them then it may be worthwhile sharing this with other teachers so they too can make the student feel encouraged and engaged.


SEMH and BESD difficulties are increasing rapidly with the effects of the lockdown and pandemic. Many recent studies have shown that these need to be taken seriously by all teachers to motivate students, keep your class happy and establish a constructive learning environment.


Simply Education cares about you and the students you teach. We offer all registered candidates free CPD courses covering a broad range of topics including behaviour management. We also offer webinars and skill-building workshops. Our registered candidates also have access to a dedicated consultant that will work hard to find you the perfect job. We have an incredible pool of jobs from all over England for full-time, part-time and supply teachers.

Register with us today and find the education work you’ve been looking for.

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