Early Years



1.5  Educational programmes must involve activities and experiences for children, as follows: Personal, social and emotional development involves helping children to develop a positive sense of themselves, and others; to form positive relationships and develop respect for others…and to have confidence in their own abilities.’
The statutory framework for the early years foundation stage, DfE (2017)

‘Children’s health, welfare and well-being are significantly enhanced by the vigilant and highly consistent implementation of robust policies, procedures and practice.’
Outstanding descriptors, Early Years Inspection Handbook, Ofsted (2018)

Guidance issued by the Department for Education on mental health and behaviour has identified factors that place certain individuals and groups at a higher risk of developing mental health problems. These risks relate to the child, the family, the community they live in or significant life events. These risk factors include:

  • Communication difficulties
  • Learning difficulties
  • Disadvantaged children
  • Children with illnesses or medical needs
  • Poor attachments
  • Children dealing with trauma or loss
  • Poor parenting, family breakdown and inconsistent discipline

Risk factors are cumulative and children exposed to multiple risks such as social disadvantage, family adversity and cognitive or attention problems are much more likely to develop behavioural problems. However, there are factors that promote children’s mental health and it is, therefore, important to understand these ‘protective factors’ and how they promote children to be resilient when they encounter problems and challenges. Some ‘protective factors’ include:

  • Good communication skills (including the language of feelings)
  • Experiences of belonging and achievement, strong attachments and sociability
  • Promoting Characteristics of Effective Learning and self-regulation skills
  • Promoting a sense of success and achievement
  • Inclusive and supportive environments and community networks
  • Positive working relationships between parents/carers and settings
  • Robust setting/school policy, procedure and practice to support transitions (including daily transitions)

The role that education plays in promoting the resilience of their pupils is important, especially for children whose home life is less supportive. Schools and settings should provide an environment that is safe and affirming, where a child can develop a strong sense of belonging and feel able to trust and talk openly with adults.
Adapted from Mental health and behaviour in schools, DfE (2018)


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