University of Worcester Worcester Research and Publications

Establishing a Positive Emotional Climate in an Early Years Setting

Byrd, P.P. (2012) Establishing a Positive Emotional Climate in an Early Years Setting. PhD thesis, University of Worcester.

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This qualitative study provides new insight into how the sensitive management of the
emotional climate of an early years setting contributes to a beneficial context for child
development by focusing on enhancing the emotional well-being of the workforce.
This action research centred on the experiences of staff employed to care for young
children and explored the wide range of skills and responsibilities that are required of
managers and staff teams in settings that provide day care and early education. It also
considered the extent to which the needs and best interests of children are being
adequately addressed. This enquiry contributes to the ongoing debate over how well
young children are served by the use of early childcare and education settings and
whether some young children may be at risk of emotional neglect if relationships and
interactions in the setting are not sensitive and responsive to the emotional needs of the
children and their carers.
This research approach provides insight into how management actions and organisational
practices in early years settings can impact on children’s well-being, learning and
development, and draws on many viewpoints using a variety of research tools. After an
initial survey of early years staff and managers of a range of settings in the East Midlands,
the focus moves to data gathering activities arising in one main setting based in the
region. The findings from the preliminary survey and the main setting raise important
questions about the experiences of young children.
Reflective management tools have been developed and successfully piloted in the main
study setting. The findings demonstrate a significant link between the implementation of
beneficial organisational practices in early years settings and the development of a
positive emotional climate through addressing issues affecting the staff and children’s
well-being. Although this study is located in one region with data collected from one main
setting in particular, the research tools and findings have relevance to the organisational
practices in other early years settings
Personal well-being and team morale of early years staff are shown to contribute to the
quality of interactions that impact on children’s well-being. The issue of ‘being valued and
appreciated’ is revealed as a key factor to be addressed in order to raise and maintain
staff morale. Practitioners in the main setting identified positive leadership and
management behaviours as contributing to feeling valued and appreciated. The
development of a management style that empowers and motivates staff, is recognised
here as compensatory in overcoming the inherent low pay and the sense of being undervalued
often associated with early years work. A nurturing management style is shown to
contribute to a positive emotional climate by improving staff retention and team stability.
A positive emotional climate is described as an environment that supports children’s
emotional development, cognitive development and subsequent educational achievement
and social integration. The task of providing early years care and education at a level
that promotes children’s emotional well-being is one that requires training in an holistic
approach to care and development and high professional standards for those with a
leadership responsibility. A young child’s positive emotional well-being is identified as a
major factor in helping children to establish themselves as life-long learners and this study
concludes that the development of critical reflective management skills is essential if early
years settings are able to provide an environment in which children can thrive. The
concept of a beneficial childhood is defined and the study recommends that a focus on
child emotional well-being is the top priority that underpins local and national policy.
The teamwork skills of staff are extended to include the child’s parents or main carers
such that the adults collectively take responsibility for creating a coherent and consistent
community of practice within which the children can thrive. The development of an
identifiable and supportive group culture is regarded as the responsibility of the most
senior person involved in the setting and this research identifies that this role requires
assistance and support from others internal and external to the setting.
The overall conclusions and recommendations focus on the following areas:
· Recognition of the impact of adult well-being on children’s experiences;
· Description of a beneficial leadership style for early years settings;
· Clarification of specific organisational practices to be developed;
· Consideration of parental involvement and shared responsibility for childhood;
· Proposal of specific training activities to support development of practice.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information:

A print version of this PhD thesis is held on Level 4 at the Hive.

Uncontrolled Discrete Keywords: young children, early education setting, day care, emotional climate
Subjects: L Education > L Education (General)
Divisions: College of Arts, Humanities and Education > School of Education
Depositing User: Janet Davidson
Date Deposited: 10 Sep 2013 10:01
Last Modified: 17 Jun 2020 16:59

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