Positive behaviour in the early years: research report

Report of research into perceptions of staff, service providers and parents in managing and promoting positive behaviour in early years and early primary settings.


The Positive Behaviour in the Early Years Project aimed to seek the views about positive behaviour held by practitioners in early years settings, service providers who work with them and parents in order to establish the extent to which behaviour of young children is of concern to practitioners, service providers and parents. Further the project aimed to identify and take into account any relevant factors in terms of children's or family circumstances or conditions ( e.g. gender, socio-economic group). Through exploring the approaches that practitioners and service providers use to manage behaviour, promote pro-social behaviour, or other interventions the project aimed to establish the extent to which practitioners feel skilled and prepared for the issues children present in their setting.

Two councils agreed to partner the then Scottish Executive in this project by facilitating access to the range of early years provision and partner providers in their areas. The study sought to involve practitioners in different kinds of provision for children ages 0-6 years, including local authority provision, and their partner providers in private, voluntary and community settings. Additionally the study sought to locate findings derived from the two case study areas within the national context.

The study aimed to focus on key factors in supporting children, such as the priority the setting gave to Personal, Social and Emotional Development as part of the 3-5 and 5-14 curriculum, transitions between different types of provision or different stages of education, information sharing between professionals and with families and multi-disciplinary/inter-agency working. A focus on children under-three also emerged in consultation with the Project Steering Group.

The local authorities agreed to facilitate access where possible to a broad range of support services that work with early years provision to support children and families in education, social work and health, so that their views about supporting positive behaviour could be sought.

The specification for the research led to the following questions:

1 What is the extent and nature of behaviour difficulties among children in early years and early primary settings?

2 What strategies do parents, practitioners and service providers use to manage behaviour and promote pro-social behaviour?

3 What practices can be identified by staff and parents as successful, in relation to supporting transitions from nursery/pre-school to school?

4 What effective approaches to training and support can be identified for staff in early years settings?

To address these questions effectively, various investigative approaches were identified. Before the start of the main study, all aspects of our code of ethics were addressed and consequently ethical approval from the University of Strathclyde was confirmed. A coded identifier system was developed to maintain confidentiality appreciating the sensitivities of the research. Following through the ethics exercise also included implementing procedures for gaining informed consent of all participants.

The questionnaires and research tools were piloted for face-validity and productivity and developed into a set of measures for the main study. The pilot exercise clarified materials and confirmed effectiveness of the measures chosen.

At an early stage, meetings with local authorities and identified pilot settings were held to discuss the project and associated research activities to be undertaken. Professor Ferre Laevers, consultant to the project, was invited to offer a conference day in each local authority in September 2005 on the action-research components of the study. Local authorities were asked to invite representatives of all settings identified to participate in the project. A further session for staff was organised before the start of the project by the research team to revisit these well-being and involvement observation tasks - so providing staff development and support to practitioners to facilitate the completion of the well-being and involvement scales and other self-evaluation instruments. Local authorities were informed of all key aspects in the research process on an ongoing basis and meetings were arranged to discuss any specific issues that arose.

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