Behaviour management: pupils with SEMH needs

Learn how to manage challenging behaviour from pupils with SEMH needs. Get guidance on communicating effectively with these pupils and adapting your classroom environment to cater for their needs. Plus, see examples of what other schools are doing.

on 25 March 2024
School types: AllSchool phases: Primary, SecondaryRef: 684
  1. Have a consistent approach to addressing challenging behaviour
  2. Work with pupils to find out what they need 
  3. Support pupils through high-quality teaching
  4. Communicate clearly
  5. Give pupils tools to recognise when they are feeling angry or low
  6. Adapt the physical environment
  7. Carry out small-group interventions
  8. Set up reward systems for good behaviour 
  9. Dealing with extremely challenging behaviour

SEMH (social, emotional and mental health) needs are a type of special educational need (SEN). Pupils described as having SEMH often struggle to manage their emotions and behaviour because they can't engage with learning – as a result, they can feel anxious, scared and misunderstood. 

Remember that not every pupil who fits this description will have received a specific diagnosis of SEMH, or be on your special educational needs and/or disability (SEND) register. 

Look through the strategies below and pick the ones that you think are the most suitable for your pupils and your school's context.

Please note that the inclusion of products in this article does not represent an endorsement from The Key.

Have a consistent approach to addressing challenging behaviour

Regardless of which behaviour management strategies your school uses, it's important that all staff have a consistent approach to implementing them.