Happiness is the basis of success

5th October 2007 at 01:00
As one of the people involved in the early development of the Government's social and emotional aspects of learning approach, I feel frustrated at media portrayals of it as just about "happiness". Peter Wilby's fears (TES, September 28) would be justified if that was all there is to Seal.

Yes, it does seek to develop in young people the cognitive skills that help manage negative moods and bounce back after setbacks. But it also aims to develop empathy. The capacity to feel for and with others is at the heart of our humanity but is not, as Peter observes, always a comfortable experience. It involves a lot of hard-edged skills like working in groups, resolving conflict, not losing it when you are angry, sticking at things when they are hard.

Seal helps young people negotiate whatever life throws at them, which isn't always great. It tries to put children more in charge of their own responses, and make them a bit more knowledgeable and self-aware. Isn't that what we want for them?

Jean Gross former senior director in Primary National Strategy, Greenwich

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