Personal, Social and Emotional Development

Wednesday 20th November

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This blog post was written by registered childminder, author and Early Years professional, Rebecca Martland. She is also an Early Years trainer & consultant for Children at Heart.

Early Years Foundation Stage

Personal, Social and Emotional Development (PSED) is one of the three prime areas of learning and development within the EYFS and is divided into three aspects: making relationships; self-confidence and self-awareness; managing feelings and behaviour.

PSED is described as:

‘’helping children to develop a positive sense of themselves, of others; to form positive relationships and develop respect for others; to develop social skills and learn how to manage their feelings; to understand appropriate behaviour in groups; and to have confidence in their own abilities.’’

(DfE, 2017)

Ofsted Education Inspection Framework 2019: Intent, Implement, Impact

Previously, when inspecting Early Years settings, Ofsted graded the quality of all three aspects of PSED within one judgement area. In September 2019 the new Education Inspection Framework (EIF) came into force, with this judgement being split into ‘Personal Development’ and ‘Behaviour and Attitudes’. Ofsted have suggested that ‘Personal Development’ focuses on the setting’s intent and quality of implementation whereas in ‘Behaviour and Attitudes’ the focus is on the impact of a setting’s delivery. The premise is that through effective implementation of a setting’s intention to support young children’s personal, social and emotional development children will learn how to

  • Manage their own feelings and behaviour
  • Develop a sense of right and wrong
  • Develop positive attitudes to learning through curiosity, concentration and enjoyment
  • Be Resilient
  • Have positive relationships between other children, parents and staff
  • Feel safe and secure

which will be demonstrated through their behaviour and attitudes to learning (impact).

Personally, although I can see their reasoning above, I find it difficult to separate the two judgements and am unsure about Ofsted’s motivation with this move. It was broadly welcomed within their consultation, but I am unsure where the idea originated from.

What comes first?

I believe the order in which the three aspects of PSED are listed in Development Matters is telling. In the Early Learning Goals section of the EYFS self-confidence is listed first, followed by feelings and behaviour and finally making relationships. In Development Matters however, making relationships is first and managing feelings last. For me this is exactly as it should be.

Making Relationships leads to children developing self-confidence and self-awareness and from these learning to manage feelings and behaviour.

Positive relationships

Young children begin to know themselves through their experiences of how others respond to them. They require attentive, warm, loving, caring, predictable responses from their caregivers in order to develop positive, healthy relationships. These relationships create strong, secure attachments which enable children to feel safe and secure; valued and cherished; capable and resilient; and thereby develop a positive sense of self.

Such children experience effective co-regulation from their caregivers, who listen to the voice of the child, reflect back their understanding of the child’s distress and label it, then model appropriate behavior and calm down strategies. In this way children learn to understand their own big emotions and so become able to regulate and manage their own behavior.

Self-confidence and self-awareness

When children feel safe, they also feel able to take risks, and explore independently, beyond their comfort zone. Risk-taking is a vital element of child development as it facilitates learning. Through these explorations they begin to build resilience as they encounter and overcome challenges, difficulties and disappointments whilst remaining supported by their caregiver. Resilience is an essential ability that enables us to adapt and ‘bounce back’ or recover when faced with stress and adversity. Learning to cope and recover from small disappointments, such as not winning at a board game, or losing the piece of a jigsaw puzzle, helps children to develop the resilience to deal with greater challenges they may encounter in life.

Managing feelings and behaviour

Concern has been expressed that Ofsted will judge Early Years settings on the behaviour of the children attending. Ofsted have been quick to reply that this is not the case and that inspectors will be focussing rather on how well practitioners respond to children in their care who are struggling to behave appropriately. This is a welcome reassurance given that ‘managing feelings and behaviour’ refers to children learning how to manage THEIR OWN feelings and behaviour, something that has become muddied by outdated terminology such as ‘Behaviour management policy’, reinforced by EYFS requirement 3.52 ‘providers are responsible for managing children’s behaviour in an appropriate way’’.

Rather than managing ‘unwanted behaviour’ practitioners should be seeking to be sensitive and responsive to children’s needs, feelings and moods in order to understand the meaning behind the behaviour and what the child is trying to communicate through their actions. There is growing understanding, through research into brain development and advances in neuroscience, that many traditional methods of behaviour management, including sticker charts and time out (as opposed to time-in) are not only ineffective in the long term, they are also potentially damaging to children’s emotional well-being.

Rebecca Martland: Children at Heart

Rebecca has over 18 years’ experience in the Early Years sector, as a Registered Childminder; Early Years trainer, consultant, author and Nursery World Awards judge. She is a qualified teacher and Early Years Professional.

Rebecca is a staunch advocate of play based, child-centred education and childcare. This philosophy is at the centre of her training and a message she shares widely as an active member of the Early Years community.

Twitter @RebeccaMartland

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