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Impact of AcE/SEAD programme in Birmingham 2008 (by Anita Soni, June 2010 on behalf of Martin Hawthorne, Birmingham Training Team)

The importance of social, emotional learning and dispositions to learn has been highlighted in Government publications (DfES, 2001, DfES, 2004). In addition the role of social and emotional learning can be tracked through the development of the curriculum for young children from the Desirable Learning Outcomes (DfEE 1996) to the Early Years Foundation Stage (DCSF, 2008).Whilst there has been a focus on social, emotional and dispositional learning, Pascal & Bertram (2000) note that identification, assessment and development of this aspect of learning can be poor and practitioners often express uncertainty in this area. Pascal & Bertram (2000) developed the Accounting Early for Life Long Learning (AcE) project in 1999, as an attempt to address the need for materials to support children’s social, emotional and dispositional learning.

Pascal & Bertram (2002) identify the effective learner;

‘….as a child who can sustain their ability to explore the world in an open, critical, creative and joyful way in order to   extend their knowledge and understanding.’

Through their work with practitioners and review of professional and research literature on effective learning, Pascal & Bertram (2002, 2008) identified four core elements of the effective learner:

  • dispositions to learn;
  • social competence and self concept;
  • emotional well being.
  • communication and language development.

 Within each domain are 4 to 5 elements as shown in the table below.

Communication and Language Development

  • Language exploration
  • Language agency
  • Language range
  • Language processing

Attitudes and Dispositions to Learn     

  • Independence
  • Creativity
  • Self motivation
  • Resilience


Emotional Wellbeing

  • Emotional literacy
  • Empowerment
  • Connectedness
  • Positive self esteem

Social competence/ self concept

  • Effective relationships
  • Empathy
  • Responsibility
  • Assertivenes
  • Self worth

The cohort of children are ragged initially, and then a focus group of children is selected. These children are then observed a number of times to highlights their strengths and areas for development within the four domains. Simultaneously parents are asked to observe their child, in the way that suits the family, possibly taking photographs at home, to allow them to share their picture of their child. Once this has been completed, there is a Parent Conference between the practitioner, the parent and child (dependent on age) to discuss the child’s strengths and areas for development. This is transferred into an action plan that is carried out both in the setting and in the child’s home, that is then reviewed after a suitable period of time. Thus family and setting work together to develop and improve the child’s skills further to become an effective learner.

 In 2008, Birmingham Local Authority was given a grant with the purpose of ‘to help improve the skills and expertise of early years practitioners to support children’s social development.’ The funding was to enable the early years workforce:

  •  To access appropriate and relevant training and development opportunities so that they are better able to support children; to interact effectively and to have positive dispositions and attitudes to learning
  • To increase practitioner knowledge and understanding so that, working with and engaging with parents, they are better equipped to support children’s social and emotional development
  • To facilitate a culture of continuous professional development

In Birmingham it was decided that Accounting Early for Lifelong Learning (AcE) could offer a way of supporting the SEAD project. Nineteen setting embarked on the AcE project in October 2008.

Thirty four practitioners completed questionnaires before and after the training held in January - March 2008 to show the development of their confidence and skills. Practitioners also completed questionnaires in July 2008 to look at the delayed impact of the training. Twenty parents were also interviewed in some of the settings either individually or in small groups  in July/September 2008.This resulted in both qualitative and quantative data on the;

  • immediate and delayed impact of training on practitioners with recommendations for further training
  • impact on the parents in terms of confidence, skills in recognising their child's development and value of the programme to themselves and their children. 
The quantative data on parents and practitioners confidence and skills is illustrated in graphs that can be emailed on request.

Parents’ comments on how their confidence developed are illuminative:

  • Highlighted how I didn’t pay as much attention like his play – going about things in a different way – turn things around a bit more
  • You got 1 to 1 and you get the pinpointing of the difficulties so it’s more specific and you can see what you can do to improve it.
  • It was better afterward as it made me focus on what I was doing with him and can see how well developed he is but I did know what he was good at already.

Parents’ comments on skills in recognising their child’s development and learning show how parenting skills developed:

  • Looking at things differently now, and play differently, for example I put the activity out now and sit and interact with B more and ask different questions to get him to talk and to get the kids to talk to each other. I turn the television off more. I used to do the washing up as that was important but now I interact as that’s more important.
  • Because I have had feedback and the action plan I know what to push and so now when I go to the shop I make him talk, in a nice way, it’s building him up and taking the time for him to do it.

Parents were also to comment on the value of the programme for themselves as parents. Comments included:

  • Opened my eyes to the way to do things. I don’t think parents realise about PS II. I’ve got two dogs now as they play with the kids too, and I get the older ones to do different things with the little ones rather than all being on their own.
  • I let him do things himself more, like changing his clothes, drinking, otherwise I did everything for him
  • I wouldn’t have known what to do. I am more communicating with him now and can understand him more and I read to him now.

Parents’ comments on the impact of the programme on their child included:

  • He’s got a lot more confident in little things, for example he used to be terrified of swimming but went to a pool party and it took 20 minutes to get him in and now he wants to have a pool party but I had to build it up, put my toe in until he was jumping in at the end. I wouldn’t have tried for so long before, you know at telling him.
  • It’s made the world of difference, he’s suddenly found his feet and his voice
  • K is a lot more willing to tell me stuff about school, like he was so excited about the trip, whereas before he didn’t want to go to school, but because I spoke to him about the trip before it, he was OK. He likes school a lot now before he used to cry a lot and not want to go.
  • L’s come out of herself, more confident and got more social skills with other children. She mixes more, she always used to be on her own and was crying. I used to go home crying leaving her here as she was on her own.

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Parents also commented on how the programme had helped to develop their relationship with their child:

  • Made me feel better to push him in things. I wasn’t confident myself and it worried me he would be like me. It has made me feel he can have all eyes on him. Before I would let him push to the back, now I encourage him to push through at the zoo and places so he can see not just let him stay by me. Maybe I was a bit too protective?
  • We communicate more, so there is more interaction, more often.

Parents were also asked to feedback on how the programme had affected their relationship with the setting. Many parents did feel they had a close relationship with the setting, but made comments such as:

  • We thought the same thing but hadn’t spoken about it, but spoke to each other at the Parent Conference….
  • Because Mrs XXX knows – she’s watching him – so he wasn’t painting and giving him and me feedback. We’re on the same page now.
  • It has always been very good but has helped.

This is an example of a summary report on the impact of a pre-written programme for parents, but it may be that you want to evaluate a parent partnership programme that you have established or gain feedback from children about changes, please contact me to discuss how to evaluate and report change to Advisory Boards, Governors, proprietors or Steering bodies.

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