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Why SEL is More Important Now Than Ever

It’s almost impossible these days in Australia, to wake up and not be confronted with news headlines highlighting incidents of violence in our communities.  By no means a new phenomenon, the culture of violence in Australia is something that has been documented over decades, and though the rates of violence in Australia may pale in comparison to that of other countries around the world, its very existence has a profound impact on our communities, especially our young children.

In 2023, the Australian Bureau of Statistics published findings that an estimated 22% of adults in Australia have experienced childhood abuse and/or witnessed parental violence before the age of 15. 

Children who are exposed to family, domestic and sexual violence experience adverse affects on their future health, wellbeing, education, relationships and housing outcomes.

More specifically, research has found exposure to family violence to be associated with a range of outcomes including:

·      Diminished educational attainment

·      Reduced social participation in early adulthood

·      Physical and psychological disorders

·      Suicidal ideation

·      Behavioural difficulties

·      Homelessness

·      Future victimisation and/or violent offending


However, with the right support, children exposed to family violence, can develop the tools necessary to have increased resilience later in life that will inevitably help them avoid, or at the very least, cope with, any negative outcomes.


The first edition of the Second Step program, created in 1985, was the product of an exploration into primary abuse prevention.  This violence-prevention curriculum was a universal prevention program designed to reduce impulsive and aggressive behaviour in children.  It has undergone several research-based iterations over the years and has built an evidence-base that sees it consistently chosen as the favoured social-emotional learning program in schools across Australia and New Zealand.


The Second Step social emotional learning program is a universal curriculum, designed to be taught to all students in a classroom setting, and ideally on a whole-school basis.  Through the promotion of social-emotional competence and self-regulation, Second Step is designed to increase student success and decrease problem behaviours.  It aligns to the 5 core competencies as outlined by CASEL:

·      Self-management

·      Self-awareness

·      Social Awareness

·      Relationship Skills

·      Responsible Decision Making


By implementing Second Step on a whole-school level, an environment is created in which violence simply cannot prevail.  Students are equipped with skills in empathy, emotion-management and problem solving and are more likely to display improvements in prosocial skills, empathy and conduct, as well as academic performance.

If we want children who are exposed to violence to have any chance of evading the inevitable outcomes of violence, they are going to need the skills necessary to thrive and connect in this world.  When implemented holistically, with a coordinated, community-wide approach, SEL can build stronger communities and support inclusive, equitable learning.


If we want our communities to be filled with adults who show kindness and respect to one another, rather than resorting to violence, we need to start teaching these skills to children at a young age.  Children who are socially and emotionally competent are twice as likely to earn a tertiary degree and 50% more likely to finish Year 12 and have a full time job by age 25.  They are more likely to have more friends, which means they are more likely to feel connected to school and do well, and less likely to be left out or bullied.  Quite the change in trajectory for someone who may have been facing challenges of adverse affects on their future health, wellbeing, education, relationships and housing outcomes. Watch our 'SEL, What & Why' video below to learn more.

Second Step offers explicit social-emotional skills instruction for Early Learning through Year 8. To learn more about Second Step and social-emotional learning, please contact



Positive Pieces Education is the Australian and New Zealand publisher of the Second Step social-emotional learning program. Learn more


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