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D R A G O N S T O D AY S U MM E R 2 0 1 6


P r o f i l e

Mary Taylor

D e p u t y H e a d S o c i a l a n d E m o t i o n a l L e a r n i n g

Why do you think social and emotional

learning is so central to the Dragon


Skipper Lynam, Headmaster of the Dragon

from 1886-1920, said, “We have failed

unless we have helped the child develop

his mind and his capacities in his own way,

unless we have given him full scope for all

the imagination and originality that is

in him.”

The Dragon has always understood that,

what we now understand as Social and

Emotional Learning, is at the heart of

children’s development. The skills young

Dragons will need when they emerge into

the world as adults will include, above

all, the ability to manage themselves and

others through the ups and downs of

life. In addition, learning attitudes and

dispositions must be nurtured as an integral

part of education if children are to own

their own learning.

What is Social and Emotional Learning?

Today, children are bombarded by marks

and grades, social pressures, advertising

and exposure to the adult world through

new technologies. It has never been more

important to put children’s safety and

emotional development at the forefront.

Education is not ‘filling up of a bucket’

rather a lighting of intellectual fires. If

education is something which is done

to children, rather than something in

which they are an equal partner, they

will feel disempowered and lack belief in

themselves. Research in the area of Social

and Emotional Learning recognises that

all learning is linked. Children who feel

safe, competent, valued, listened to and

respected learn to the best of their abilities.

When children are nurtured within the

context of social and emotional learning,

they develop the learning skills and

attributes that will take them into

healthy adulthood.

For children to make the most of their

learning and exam successes, they need

to be able to manage themselves, and

others, as social and emotional beings.

The Dragon is building on its inherent

understanding of the creativity and

wonderment of childhood to help children

build the social and emotional skills that

will help them navigate our ever more

complex world.

Deputy Head Social and Emotional

Learning is a unique title, what does it


As Head of Social and Emotional

Learning, my role is to ensure that social

and emotional learning is embedded in

to the curriculum and remains at the

forefront of our teaching and

learning practice.

In the UK, Reception children are creative

and curious. My role is to ensure that

social and emotional learning is embedded

in to the curriculum, and in our teaching

and learning practice, so that children

approach their learning with the same

creativity and curiosity as they move

through the School and become lifelong

lovers of learning.

I studied Music at Clare College,

Cambridge and went on to train as a

Music Therapist after completing a PGCE

focusing on learners with difficulties. I

worked as a Music Therapist in the NHS

in London, in mental health with adults

and children, and for the National Autistic

Society. After becoming a mother, I went

on to teach GCSE and A Level Music in a

large Grammar School and then brought

these earlier experiences together to take

on a more pastoral role as Housemistress

in a Sixth Form Boarding House. When

I moved to the Dragon as Housemistress

of Cherwell House, I understood that the

social and emotional education of younger

children was a necessary precursor to

successful learning in all areas later on.

At the Dragon, how do we promote

courage, kindness and respect?

What you pay attention to is what you get

more of. Staff take care to notice small acts

of kindness, courage and respect every day

and these are rewarded appropriately. We

look outwards to our community and the

wider world for examples of these values in

action, encouraging children to engage in

social entrepreneurship so that they might

become change makers and leaders who

make a difference.

Developing empathy is a journey for all

young children; keeping simple values at

the forefront of daily life supports this.

What systems are in place to integrate

social and emotional learning across the


Since 1998 we have been embedding

the Family Links Nurturing Programme

throughout the School. This social and

emotional health programme links home

and school through a shared language

and approach. As well as the training of

all staff in the School – including support

staff - and the approach with the children,

we also run 10-week Parent Groups in the

evenings and at drop-off in the mornings

so that we can work closely with parents

to provide the best experience for the

children. The Family Links approach

helps us all to focus on the feelings

behind behaviour, and along with our

recent Mindfulness in Schools work, to

develop the personal strategies and skills

to manage ourselves and each other in this

complicated world.