New School Year, New Opportunities: Supporting a Positive Early Childhood Education

During Back to School awareness month, Dr Anna Weighall discusses how her research work supports and helps to improve Early Years Education, equipping educators with evidence-based strategies for children's development and emotional well-being

A classroom based lesson with the teacher in the foreground and children holding their hands up

The start of a new school year brings fresh opportunities for educational innovation. This September, the University of Sheffield, is taking a significant step to improve early years education through a research project funded by the Nuffield Foundation. The project aims to evaluate the Positive Childhood Early Education (PECE) programme, an extension of the internationally acclaimed Triple P - Positive Parenting Program®. Designed to address the crucial training gap in early years settings, the PECE programme focuses on equipping educators with evidence-based strategies for children's development and emotional well-being. 

The PECE programme is an online learning course for early year’s educators and also offers professional training for managers and supervisors to become 'PECE Coaches.' These coaches will play an integral role in implementing and fine-tuning the programme's evidence-based strategies within their teams, thereby improving overall job satisfaction and children's outcomes. The aim of the University-led research is to assess the feasibility, acceptability, and preliminary outcomes of the PECE programme in early years settings across Yorkshire, prior to a larger Randomised Control Trial evaluation. The project will include work to articulate how it supports the revised Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) and the OFSTED EIF, to improve the quality of care children receive in the early years.

This research initiative is more than just an academic exercise; it's a timely intervention with the ultimate aim of improving Early Years Education, and supporting the development of a skilled and valued Early Years Workforce.

Dr Anna Weighall, academic lead for the trial, commented: ‘This is an exciting opportunity to build on preliminary evidence that the PECE programme makes a positive difference to early years educators. It’s a timely moment to offer more support to staff as policy makers look to invest more in early learning environments and improving outcomes for babies and children.’

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