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Early Years toolkit - Promoting wellbeing

Supporting early years settings in developing a whole-setting approach to wellbeing.

To support early years settings in developing a whole-setting approach to wellbeing, the Oxfordshire Educational Psychology Service have worked alongside the Early Years SEN and Early Years Advisory Teams to produce the ‘Promoting Wellbeing’ tools.

These materials are based on research, feedback from pilot settings and professional advice, and aim to help clarify the key features needed for an effective whole-setting approach to wellbeing. They are designed to be flexible and adapted as required to each setting’s needs and circumstances.

The tools can be used in a variety of ways to support self-evaluation and planning provision to meet needs in the area of personal, social and emotional development (PSED). Uses could include:

  • To support a self-assessment of whole-setting provision, feeding into a programme of development to ensure best practice over time
  • To promote peer support and sharing of good practice among settings
  • To make explicit the approaches available and focus of specific practices among the whole staff group
  • To provide a way to share information effectively with third parties e.g. Ofsted

Self-assessment tool

The Foundations for an Emotionally Healthy Early Years Setting Self-Assessment tool (docx format, 129Kb) shows the core measures that need to be in place to support an effective whole setting approach to promoting wellbeing. There is also an Excel version of the self-assessment tool (xlsx format, 123Kb) to collate views from a larger staff team. The 31 core building blocks for an emotionally healthy setting are broken into five main areas:

  • Leadership
  • Engagement
  • Learning Approaches
  • Staff Training and Support
  • Policy and procedures

The Building Wellbeing Plan (docx format, 176Kb) is designed to help settings to map out their provision available at different levels of intervention (e.g. what is available for all children: ‘universal’, for those with emerging needs: ‘targeted’, and those requiring a high level of support: ‘personalised’). In this way it will clarify the options for a graduated response to meeting the PSED needs of children.

Practice and literature both suggest that children who experience difficulties with PSED are likely to require support in five key areas:

  • Social and emotional skills, attitudes and values
  • Social interaction and sense of belonging
  • Self-esteem, independence, self-regulated learning and identity
  • Support to regulate emotions
  • Promote positive/alternative behaviours and reduce negative behaviours

The plan also identifies three key areas for settings to consider at an organisational level when meeting personal, social and emotional development needs:

  • Involvement of parents / carers / families
  • Support for staff
  • Record keeping and monitoring

See a completed example of the plan for an Early Years setting (pdf format, 188Kb).

Following the self-assessment process, areas requiring additional development may be identified. These can be captured on the Action plan (docx format, 177Kb).

Using the resources

The resources are provided free for settings to use.

Settings may wish to approach their link EYSEN Advisory Team/ EY Advisory Team to support them in the self-assessment and action planning procedures.

Supporting documents

Useful links


Reading references
Author Date Title Age
Allen, G. (Cabinet Office) 2011 ‘Early intervention: next steps.’ Early Years
Barnet London Borough 2018 ‘Healthy Early Years London in Barnet’ Early Years
Brighton and Hove City Council 2018 ‘Developing an Attachment Aware Behaviour Regulation Policy: Guidance for Brighton and Hove Schools’ School age
Bonetti, S., Brown, K. (Educational Policy Institute) 2018 ‘Structural elements of quality early years provision: A review of the evidence.’ Early Years
Burger, K. 2010 How does early childhood care and education affect cognitive development? An international review of the effects of early interventions for children from different social backgrounds. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 25(2),140–65. Early Years
Chiumento, A., Mukherjee, I., Chandna, J., Dutton, C., Rahman, A., & Bristow, K. 2018 A haven of green space: learning from a pilot pre-post evaluation of a school-based social and therapeutic horticulture intervention with children. BMC public health, 18(1), 836. School age
Crane, L., Adams, F., Harper, G., Welch, J. and Pellicano, E. 2018 ‘Something needs to change: Mental health experiences of young autistic adults in England’, Autism, pp.1 - 17 School age
DfE 2016 ‘Mental Health and Behaviour in Schools’ School age
DfE 2017 ‘Supporting Mental Health in Schools and Colleges’ School age
DfE 2017 ‘Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provision: a green paper’ School age
DfE and DfHSC 2018 ‘Government Response to the Consultation on Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provision: a Green Paper and Next Steps’ School age
DfE and Brown, R. 2018 ‘Mental Health and wellbeing provision in schools: Review of published policies and information’ School age
DfE 2019 Early Years Foundation Stage Reforms. Government consultation Early Years
Hughes, D.   ‘Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy: PACE - Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity, Empathy’ School age
Fazel, M., Hoagwood, K., Stephan, S. and Ford, T. 2014 ‘Mental Health Interventions in Schools in High-Income Countries’, The Lancet Psychiatry, 1, pp. 377-387 School age
Gerhardt, S. 2004 ‘Why Love Matters: How Affection Shapes a Baby’s Brain” Early Years
Hampshire County Council 2015 ‘Healthy Early Years Audit’ Early Years
Harvey, D. J., Montgomery, L. N., Harvey, H., Hall, F., Gange, A. C., & Watling, D. 2020 ‘Psychological benefits of a biodiversity-focussed outdoor learning program for primary school children’ Journal of Environmental Psychology, 67, 101381. Early Years
MacDonald, G. and O'Hara, K. 1998 ‘Ten Elements of Mental Health: its promotion and demotion.’ Cited in The Sandwell Whole School Approach to Wellbeing, Dr Helen Tyson School age
Manning-Morton, J. 2014 ‘Exploring well-being in the early years’ Early Years
Marchant, E., Todd, C., Cooksey, R., Dredge, S., Jones, H., Reynolds, D., & Brophy, S. 2019 Curriculum-based outdoor learning for children aged 9-11: A qualitative analysis of pupils’ and teachers’ views. PloS one, 14(5), e0212242. Early Years
McCormick, R. 2017 Does access to green space impact the mental well-being of children: A systematic review. Journal of Pediatric Nursing, 37, 3-7. School age
McCree, M., Cutting, R., & Sherwin, D. 2018 The hare and the tortoise go to forest school: taking the scenic route to academic attainment via emotional wellbeing outdoors. Early Child Development and Care, 188(7), 980-996. School age
Melhuish, E., Gardiner, J. (DfE) 2017 ‘SEED: Study of Quality Early Years Provision in England’ Early Years
Melhuish, E., Gardiner, J. (DfE) 2018 ‘Study of Early Education and Development (SEED). Impact Study on Early Education Use and Child Outcomes for up to age four years’ Early Years
NHS England 2015 ‘Future in Mind: Promoting, protecting and improving our children and YP's Mental Health and Wellbeing’ School age
Nuttall, C. and Woods, K. 2013 ‘Effective Intervention for School Refusal Behaviour’, Educational Psychology in Practice, 29(4), pp. 347-366 School age
Ofsted 2019 Early years inspection handbook for Ofsted registered provision. Early Years
Prizant, B., Meyer, E. 1993 ‘Socioemotional aspects of language and social-communication disorders in young children and their families. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 2, 56-71.’ Early Years
Prizant, B., Laurent, A. 2011 ‘Behaviour is Not the issue: An Emotional Regulation Perspective on Problem Behaviour. Autism Spectrum Quarterly, 1, 29-30.’ Early Years
Public Health England 2015 ‘Promoting Children's and Young People's Emotional Health and Well-Being: A Whole school and college approach’ School age
Public Policy Institute for Wales, Banerjee, R., McLaughlin, C., Cotney, J., Roberts, L. and Peereboom, C. 2016 ‘Promoting Emotional Health, Well-Being and Resilience in Primary Schools’ School age
Ramey, C.T., Ramey, S.L. 1998 ‘Early intervention and early experience. American Psychologist, 53(2),109-20.’ Early Years
Rees, G., Bradshaw, J., Goswami, H., Keung, A. (The Children’s Society) 2010 ‘Understanding children’s wellbeing: A national survey of young people’s well-being.’ Early Years
Siddiqi A, Irwin L.G., Hertzman C. (Human Early Learning Partnership) 2007 ‘Total environment assessment model for early child development: evidence report for the World Health Organization’s Commission on the social determinants of health.’ Early Years
Sim, M., Belanger, J., Hocking, L, Dimova, S., Iakovidou, E., Janta, B., Teager, W. (Educational Policy Institute) 2018 “Teaching, pedagogy and practice in early years childcare: An evidence review.” Early Years
Sylva, K., Melhuish, E.C., Sammons, P., Siraj, I. and Taggart, B. (DfE) 2004 ‘The Effective Provision of Pre-School Education (EPPE) Project: Technical Paper 12 - The Final Report: Effective Pre-School Education.’ Early Years
Taggart, B., Sylva, K., Melhuish, E., Sammons, P., Siraj, I. (DfE) 2015 ‘Effective pre-school, primary and secondary education project (EPPSE): how pre-school influences children and young people’s attainment and developmental outcomes over time.’ Early Years
Waller, T. 2007 ‘The Trampoline Tree and the Swamp Monster with 18 heads’: outdoor play in the Foundation Stage and Foundation Phase. Education 3–13, 35(4), 393-407. Early Years
Whitebread, D (Siren Films) n.d. An introduction to self-regulation [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.sirenfilms.co.uk/product/introduction-self-regulation/ Early Years
Whitebread, D., Coltman, P., Jameson, H., Lander, R. 2009 ‘Play, Cognition and Self-regulation: What exactly are children learning when they learn through play? Educational & Child Psychology 26(2), 40-52.’ Early Years
Whitebread, D., Coltman, P. 2010 ‘Aspects of pedagogy supporting metacognition and self-regulation in mathematical learning of young children: evidence from an observational study. Mathematics Education, 42, 163-178’ Early Years
Young Minds - ‘Wise Up to Well-Being in School: Prioritising Well-Being in School’ School age


We are very grateful to the following settings, who supported us to pilot the materials:

  • Five Acres Primary School
  • Willowcroft Community School Nursery
  • Crowmarsh Pre-school
  • Headington Quarry Foundation Stage School
  • Sally Harvey (Childminder)
  • Dissisit Daycare