The economic and educational benefits of social and emotional learning

I have a confession to make. I am a Pastoral Care Coordinator. When I tell people what my job title is, I’m often asked the following questions:

photo credit: RutoPics Anxiety via photopin (license)
photo credit: RutoPics Anxiety via photopin (license)
  • Is my position religion based? (No it’s not, it just sounds like it is)
  • I thought you worked in the public system? (I do, student welfare is a universal concern in education)
  • Have I ever thought about becoming a teacher? (Actually I am a fully qualified head teacher, thank you!)


The question that usually follows these is “What do you actually do?” Cross, Lester and Barnes in their 2014 article “Evaluating Pastoral Care” broke it down into five tasks:

  1. Developing and implementing Social and Emotional Learning
  2. Monitoring and improving school climate
  3. Proactive casework
  4. Reactive casework
  5. Administration


For the most part I agree with that description. The follow up question after all this interrogation that spins my head around is a variation of “Is it worth it?” In a time of limited resources, it’s a fair enough question, why X instead of Y? My answer to this question is two-fold, educational improvement and economic improvement. Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) improves educational outcomes by 11%. You need the right SEL programs implemented consistently to get these sorts of gains, but they are there to be had. The other gain is economic, “The Long-Term Economic Benefits of Social and Emotional Learning” article at Edutopia details some economic benefits of Social and Emotional Learning. For every $1 spent on SEL, this corresponds to $18 to $37 of savings later. This compares very favourably to school based immunisation programs, which according to an immunisation nurse I spoke to, results in $47 of savings for every $1 spent.

I’d love to see more research into the effectiveness of Pastoral Care, but knowing that at least one part of my job is providing real economic and educational benefits above and beyond the social and emotional improvement provided is good enough for me.