Education Endowment Foundation:Emotion Coaching (trial)

Emotion Coaching (trial)

Norland College and Emotion Coaching UK

Trial to test the impact of Emotion Coaching, a four-step relational approach aimed at developing personal, social and emotional skills, including self-regulation, in children.

Independent Evaluator


Sign-up deadline

31 August, 2024 at 12:00am

Key Stages

Early Years

Setting places


Regions available

Recruitment and Delivery

Recruitment: January – May 2024

Delivery: September 2024 – July 2025

Settings must have a minimum of 17 children aged 3 or older in September 2024 in order to take part in the study. Children must be enrolled to attend nursery for at least 10 hours a week. At least one member of your setting’s senior team must take part in the training.

What’s involved?

Emotion Coaching (EC) is an approach that fosters teachers’ and early years staff’s warm and responsive relationships with children through self-regulation and co-regulation of both children and adults. EC supports children to understand the different emotions they experience, why they occur and how to handle them.

This professional development programme will involve 2 – 4 staff members (including one member of the senior team) per nursery setting. The staff members involved in the training should be working with 3 – 4‑year olds at the nursery. The training will involve:

  • A 2‑day online training
  • 3 x 2‑hour online follow-up workshops, held over three months
  • A 45 minute practice accreditation discussion per setting with ECUK in March/​April

Practitioners who attend the training will be encouraged to share their learning with other staff members.

All staff working with 3 – 4 year olds will be encouraged to use EC in the nursery as part of their naturally occurring interactions with children.

Who can take part?

  • Private, Voluntary and Independent (PVI) settings, maintained nursery schools as well as nursery classes in primary schools are all eligible.
  • Settings must have a minimum of 17 children aged 3 or older in September 2024. Children must be enrolled to attend nursery for at least 10 hours a week.
  • At least one member of the SLT must take part in the training.

Settings are not eligible if:

  • They have received prior training of Emotion Coaching by ECUK or an ECUK Practitioner Trainer in the current year before starting the training. Participation in other training in EC (or other programmes such as Trauma Informed Approaches) will be assessed on an individual basis.
  • They have signed up for another Stronger Practice Hub (SPH) funded programme that will be delivered in the 2024 – 2025 academic year, including settings that have been allocated to the comparison group for one of the other SPH trials (Early Talk Boost, The ONE Programme, Early Years Conversation Project, Concept Cat, Communication-Friendly Settings).
  • They are participating in another EEF-funded evaluation in the early years or if they are participating in the DfE Early Years Professional Development Programme during the year of evaluation delivery (2024−25).

To find out more and register your interest go to: Early Years Emotion Coaching Project (

As part of the DfE COVID-19 education recovery initiative, Stronger Practice Hubs, the EEF is commissioning a number of research projects to evaluate the professional development programmes offered through the hubs.

Emotion Coaching (EC) was originally developed as a parenting style clinically observed in the USA, which supports children’s emotional self-regulation, social skills, physical health and academic success. EC has been adapted to be used within educational settings and widely delivered both independently and integrated within larger scale projects. Evaluations of related implementations show evidence of promise (see below), although, to date, no UK randomised controlled trial (RCT) has been conducted for this intervention.

A mixed-method pilot study in a rural disadvantaged area in England sought to evaluate the effectiveness of training practitioners to apply emotion coaching strategies in professional contexts, particularly during emotionally intensive and behavioural incidents. The study found a perceived reduction in staff’s emotion dismissing and increases in positive acknowledgement of children’s emotions, improved professional practice and adult self-regulation and developments in children’s self-regulation and behaviour. The research is the first pilot in the UK that builds on and complements similar work being undertaken in the USA and Australia.

Two mixed-methods studies (The Attachment Aware Schools Project with children aged 4 – 15, and The Alex Timpson Schools Programme with primary and secondary-aged pupils) highlighted the usefulness of EC as the universal provision supporting the needs of children in care, who may have attachment difficulties and/​or experienced early childhood trauma. Both projects highlighted: perceived increases in child wellbeing, a decrease in sanctions and exclusions, improved attendance, engagement and learning as well as self-reported increases in staff professional practice, improved confidence and efficacy to support vulnerable pupils and improved staff self-regulation.

This project will be evaluated by NatCen through a randomised controlled trial, randomised at nursery level. This means that settings that sign up are randomly assigned to one of two groups: the Emotion Coaching group, who implement the programme being tested; or the comparison group, where practice continues as normal. This is the best way to find out the impact of the programme being tested. As they do not receive the intervention, the comparison group receives a payment for taking part in testing.

The evaluation will be an efficacy trial, meaning it will assess the impact of Emotion Coaching on children’s self-regulation over a five month period. An Implementation and Process evaluation will be conducted alongside the Impact evaluation to explore how schools implement the programme and perceptions of Emotion Coaching.

The evaluation report will be published in Autumn 2026. An addendum report including longitudinal follow-up results will be published in Autumn 2028.