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The PATHS® Programme for Schools (UK Version) - Renfrewshire ELCCs - Case Study, June 2020


The following case study aims to showcase the impact of The PATHS® Programme for Schools (UK  Version)  in  some  of  the  Early  Learning  and  Childcare  Centres  within Renfrewshire. In 2018, Hugh Smiley ELCC started to implement the PATHS® programme with support from Barnardo’s. After a successful year, five more settings came on board with the programme in August 2019. St Margaret’s, Mossvale, Wallace, Todholm and Heriot ELCCs have only been implementing the programme for a few months and have already started to see the impact of having a social and emotional learning programme in their setting. Unfortunately, due to the current situation with COVID19 there have been less structured lessons for the children. Nevertheless, staff continue to make SEL a major focus in the home learning support they are providing for families.

Programme Delivery

The PATHS® Programme for Schools (UK Version) is most effective when delivered with fidelity, that being, lessons are taught sequentially twice per week lasting around 10-15 minutes. After a full year of delivering the programme, Hugh Smiley staff devised an effective timetable to ensure the delivery of two lessons per week.

Small groups of 6-8 children are taken to the ‘Dance Studio’ where they have been taught to take a small mat and sit themselves down in a circle. Initially, this required a lot of support and guidance from staff however the children can now do this task independently. Although the lessons are taking place out of the main play area in most of the ELCC settings, staff ensure extension tasks are part of their children’s everyday play and learning experiences.

Finding the best way to deliver the lessons in a play based environment requires some time and patience in order to work out the best way to suit individual teams and settings. A number  of  the  settings  have  staff  taking  small  groups  of children to a quiet room for lessons.  This allows for a more focussed group time as well as providing a calm and secure place for the children to talk and listen.

“We pride ourselves on our Froebelian approach and learning through play and so have adapted aspects of the programme by using real life pictures and props and this has worked well for us.”  Heriot ELCC

Child of the Day

A  fundamental  aspect  of  The  PATHS®  Programme  for  Schools (UK  Version)  is  the development of positive self-esteem and this is supported through a process called ‘Child of the Day’. At Hugh Smiley the ‘Child of the Day’ process  occurs on a daily basis where pupils are giving and receiving compliments, sharing stories of friendship and singing songs to build  the  self-esteem  of  all  children.  Parents  are  also  included  in  this  process  with compliment sheets going home every day. Staff have even translated compliments for parents where English is not their first language. Early years workers from all settings have shared the positive effect on the children when they are Child of the Day:

“It is the favourite part of the day. As soon as the child enters the playroom in the morning, they are quick to tell you they’re PATHS® kid, they are then presented with the special PATHS® kid of the day lanyard and special red cape.”  Hugh Smiley ELCC

“It always makes them smile and I love how they react to their compliments differently.” St. Margaret’s ELCC

“We have witnessed children being kinder as they have learned to compliment each other."  Mossvale ELCC

The process has improved children’s self-esteem as they have become more involved in the

“The quality of compliments is improving, the children are visibly proud and their self-esteem elevated when they are pupil of the day.”  Todholm ELCC

Across the settings, ‘Child of the Day’ occurs in a variety of different ways but it is always ensured that the compliments are shared with children and their parents. Parents at Mossvale ELCC have been very proud to see their child’s picture displayed on the door as you enter the room. At Wallace   ELCC,   the   compliment   sheets   are displayed on a large display at the children’s level and this has allowed them to interact with their compliments and talk about them with staff and peers. The team at Heriot celebrate individual achievement through their achievement tree. The staff give the child a leaf for the tree which they can display for their parents to see and this happens throughout the week. Once per week, they also choose two children of the week to celebrate. These children  receive compliments from the staff and peers.

Parental Engagement

At St Margaret’s, staff are ensuring the PATHS® programme is inclusive within their setting by putting Makaton signs on the door as well as translations in Spanish for the emotions being covered in lessons. This is on the main notice board for parents to access as they enter the playroom. Parent information letters continue to be sent home on a regular basis as well as activities to encourage social and emotional dialogue at home.

Parental Engagement

Parent information sessions have been held in some ELCC settings to provide parents with a deeper understanding of the programme and how they can begin to support their child at home. A member of staff at St Margaret’s shared a positive comment from a parent regarding the complimenting process:

“One parent commented how it had a great impact at home, the child was stating ‘I want to give you a compliment’ followed by a lovely compliment for each family member.”

After attending a parent session at St Margaret’s ELCC, one parent shared their feelings on having a social and emotional learning programme in their child’s nursery:

“As a parent I feel supported as the impact is clear at home.”

Tracy Elliot from Hugh Smiley has reported some of the impact the strategies are having at home. One Grandparent shared her experience of hearing about the PATHS® programme from her grandchild; “Gran do turtle”. The child later explained that he thought they were using raised voices, so he was trying to teach his Gran how to stay calm. Some parents have also stated that their child seems to be more aware of feelings by stating questions such as “Mum are you sad?” or “Are you angry with me?”


All of the Early Years settings are beginning to make strong links between The PATHS® Programme for Schools (UK Version), play and key areas of the curriculum including literacy, art and design, construction and music. In all the ELCCs, staff have used the puppets to really capture the children’s interests, which has allowed Twiggle and his friends to become part of the nursery family. At Wallace ELCC, children created craft pictures of the animals and staff have them on display for the children to refer to throughout their day.

The children at St  Margaret’s have  created homes  for each puppet and have lots of discussion about each animal’s habitat.

“From observations they particularly responded well to the puppets, art and crafts elements and the songs related to emotions.” Jennifer Glover, Early Years Worker

At Hugh Smiley, staff developed the library area and at St Margaret’s the creation of the ‘Emotions Den’ ensures there’s a safe and nurturing space to explore stories around social and emotional learning.

Development of a Common Language

The PATHS® programme aims to develop a common language for both children and adults to use to support their social and emotional learning. Across all the settings, staff model the same  emotional  vocabulary  to  support  children’s  understanding  of  comfortable  and uncomfortable feelings. The impact of this common language is beginning to show within the children’s play. Two members of staff from St Margaret’s ELCC reflect on the programme:

“Children have developed a clear understanding that all emotions are ok and there are strategies that can help uncomfortable feelings.”

“I think the biggest impact I saw from implementing PATHS® was the vocabulary it gave our children to express themselves. I heard an increase in children being able to name their emotion and link it to something that had happened.”

Staff from Todholm ELCC also found that children were better able to use language to express themselves:

“We have seen some improvements in some children being able to discuss their emotion instead of lashing out.”

Staff are also listening and responding to children’s play and social interaction with their peers. From  staff  observations  at  St  Margaret’s  ELCC,  it  is apparent  that  emotional vocabulary and taught strategies are being used by children to build their rapport and relationships with others around them:

  • Child 1 - “I feel so angry, I can feel it right here” (touching his forehead)
  • Child 2 - “My arms are crossed … can you tell I am cross?”
  • Child 3 - “I feel so sad. I need to talk to Twiggle.”

SEL Planning

Since starting The PATHS® Programme for Schools (UK Version), many of the ELCCs have carefully linked the specific learning objectives for the lessons into the play experiences on offer to the children. This takes lots of thought and careful planning but has had such a positive impact in building the children’s self-esteem, self-awareness, self-regulation and relationship skills. SEL celebrations and achievements are recorded in children’s individual learning journals and in some settings, large floor books are used to document daily SEL conversations and learning experiences. These documents are consistently shared with children and parents/ carers.

The pace of lessons in the nursery varies from setting to setting. Although each team is given a pacing guide from their programme co-ordinator at the beginning of the year, staff will use their professional opinion to judge when to move onto the next lesson as some children will require
more time spent on specific aspects of the programme.

At  Mossvale  ELCC,  staff  used  mindmaps  to  record children’s   understanding   of   the ‘Circle   Rules’ after delivering the unit of lessons. This not only provides clear evidence of the learning and development taking place but allowed staff to feel confident about moving onto the next lesson. These  mind  maps  were  then  displayed  in  the cloakroom area for parents to read and observe the SEL that is taking place.

Over the past year, staff across all ELCCs are seeing how well the programme supports the national  practice  guidelines  for  early  years  learning  in  Scotland.  The ‘Realising  the Ambition: Being Me’ document aims to support five dimensions of development, with three of these being ‘Wellbeing Themes’: Executive Functions, Self-Regulation and Self and Social Development and all are supported through the PATHS® programme. The SHANNARI indicators have also been clearly linked with the programme’s general learning objectives.

Hugh Smiley Support

Hugh Smiley ELCC started The PATHS® Programme for Schools (UK Version) in October 2018 and have proven themselves to be an inspiration in using the programme within a preschool setting. Being one of the first preschools in Renfrewshire to have support from Barnardo’s, they have truly embraced the support provided. They have taken on advice and have been adapting their learning environment as staff become more familiar with the programme. As well as this, the team at Hugh Smiley have provided early years’ colleagues from across Renfrewshire the opportunity to come and see the programme in action. This has hugely benefited the new ELCCs that have come on board this year.

Throughout the closures of schools and early year’s settings due to COVID19, Hugh Smiley staff continue to ensure SEL is at the forefront of children’s home learning activities:

“No child should ever be or feel excluded. Even during the toughest times we are facing at the moment, having access to this wonderful programme online still enables us to support our children/families from home as parents access our parent’s page, every day we post activities and offer support.”  Tracy Elliot, Early Years Worker.

The team at Hugh Smiley are also using annual days of celebration such as Valentine’s Day and National Compliment Day to encourage children to reflect on the love and care they have for others and have celebrated throughout the setting. Wonderful displays have been created to record these days and are available for all to see as you enter the building. Parents particularly enjoyed reading their compliment post-its or the heart with why their child loved them.  This generalisation of the PATHS® programme is key to developing a SEL ethos within the setting.


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