Project sees parents of early years children taught techniques to manage bad behaviour and improve learning

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Parents of young children at 68 early years settings across the North of England have been taught techniques aimed at improving their child’s well-being.

And a newly published evaluation of the SHINE-backed Triple P project has found that it led to a reduction in problem behaviours and an improvement in children’s language ability.

SHINE has partnered with the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) and the Department for Education to evaluate a number of programmes that support parents to help improve their children’s learning and development before they start school.

The Triple P project is the first of these programmes to be completed.

It involved staff in early years settings being trained and accredited by Triple P UK to deliver the Positive Parenting Program® to parents of 3-4-year-olds.

Across eight weeks, participating families attended small group sessions in which they took part in a range of exercises to help them learn about the causes of child behaviour problems, setting specific goals, and using strategies to promote child development manage misbehaviour, and plan for high-risk situations.

The parents were taught 17 different strategies for improving their child’s social, emotional, and behavioural well-being.

Following the group sessions, parents received three individual telephone consultations of between 15 and 30 minutes to assist parents with independent problem solving while they practised the skills at home.

An evaluation of the project, undertaken by RAND, was unfortunately unable to collect the planned assessments of the impact on children’s language development due to Covid-related disruption. It focussed instead on the perceived impacts of the programme on children’s language and behaviour.

Nursery staff and parents perceived a reduction in problem behaviours and a modest improvement in children’s language ability as a result of participation in the programme.

In terms of language development, just under half of nursery staff (48.1%, 13 out of 27) reported that they had observed an improvement.

On average, parents who had taken part in Triple P reported (using standardised psychometric measures), that their child’s behaviour had improved at the end of the programme compared to the beginning. This was supported to a certain extent by practitioners with 44.4% (12 out of 27) reporting that they strongly agreed or agreed that they themselves had seen changes in children’s behaviour.

Findings suggest there is some evidence that Level 4 Group Triple P can improve child social, emotional and behavioural outcomes and parental mental health, and to a lesser extent, children’s expressive language.

Evaluation conclusions

  • For the most part, Triple P was delivered as intended and was well received by parents and nursery staff, although recruitment of parents and parental attendance at sessions were lower than planned (average attendance of 4.8 out of eight sessions).
  • Parents reported improvements in child behaviour and reductions in parental anxiety and stress. This was corroborated by nursery staff who perceived positive changes in children’s language and behaviour, though practitioners were more modest in their reports compared to parents.
  • The training, resources, and support for staff delivering the programme, as well as the resources for parents, were well-received, and nursery staff’s open and honest approach was seen as a crucial condition of successful delivery.
  • Recruitment of parents into Triple P needs to be considered sensitively and requires approaches that avoid stigmatisation. This would need to be considered for future evaluations or successful roll-out.