Education Endowment Foundation:New trial will find out if helping early years staff to support young children to manage their emotions can support early development

New trial will find out if helping early years staff to support young children to manage their emotions can support early development

Early years settings across England invited to sign-up for one of the three new trials

A new trial, launched today by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), will find out if training early years staff to conduct responsive relationships with young children – helping them to build their understanding of the different emotions they experience, why they occur, and how they can handle them – can boost early development.

Press Release •3 minutes •

Early years settings across England can register to take part in the trial of Emotion Coaching, developed and delivered by Emotion Coaching UK in collaboration with Norland College.

The programme, which has shown promise in smaller studies, gives early educators online professional development to support them to improve children’s self-regulation skills, and better manage their emotions and behaviour. It supports educators to use a four-step process:

  1. Recognising the child’s feelings and empathising with them.
  2. Validating these feelings and labelling them.
  3. Setting expectations for appropriate behaviour, given the context.
  4. Problem-solving with the child.

The independent evaluation of the randomised controlled trial, led by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen), will look at the impact of the programme on three- to four-year olds’ Personal, Social and Emotional Development (PSED) – making it the first EEF commissioned early years study to focus on this area of children’s development.

One hundred and sixty early years settings, including school-based nurseries and private, voluntary and independent settings, will take part. Eighty settings will receive the programme, while 80 will be randomly allocated to the control group and receive an incentive payment instead.

Emotion Coaching is one of three new trials launched by the EEF today and focused on the early years sector. The other projects being tested are focused on improving young children’s language and communication skills:

  • NELI Preschool, delivered by OxEd and Assessment, a University of Oxford spin-out with the researchers behind the Nuffield Early Language Intervention, is designed to support three- to four-year olds’ oral language development. The approach provides comprehensive, online training for early years educators to deliver a twenty-week language enrichment programme based on the principles of shared book reading and guided play. It uses universal and targeted approaches to enhance children’s vocabulary, narrative skills, active listening and confidence. The evaluation of NELI Preschool will be led by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER). A previous trial of NELI Preschool found that children who received the programme made the equivalent of three months’ additional progress in overall language skills.
  • Talking Time, delivered by the University of Oxford’s Department of Education, provides Early Years practitioners with professional development to support them in delivering engaging, structured, small-group activities to three- to five-year-olds, aiming to enhance early oral language through high-quality interactions and conversations. The trial of this programme will be conducted by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research.

These new research projects, co-funded with the Department for Education’s Stronger Practice Hubs, are one part of the EEF’s increased focus on support for the early years sector. All the projects will be independently evaluated, representing a significant contribution to expanding the early years evidence base.

Early years settings – including Private, Voluntary and Independent (PVI) settings, state-maintained nurseries and nursery classes in primary schools – can express interest to take part through the EEF website.

Professor Becky Francis, Chief Executive of the Education Endowment Foundation, said: