Aims and Focus

  • Our aim is to improve children’s outcomes through evidence-based professional development for Early Years practitioners.
  • Our programmes focus primarily on developing early language and communication, the foundational skills which children need to become competent and capable learners and to succeed in KS1 and beyond.

Our approach can be applied to other areas. Please speak to us if you have a different focus in mind.

Effective Professional Development

The content and structure of our programmes are based on research evidence about how adults learn and how that learning can best be supported.

We believe, and evidence suggests, that the following ACTIVE INGREDIENTS are needed for effective quality improvement.

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Research evidence and theory

Our professional development draws directly on the latest evidence and theory, making this both explicit and accessible.

Support to put evidence and theory into practice

The research tools we use provide a framework to support practitioners in understanding how to translate research into practice within their classes/rooms, and what this might look like for their children.


We use research tools such as the Environment Rating Scales to support practitioners to identify effective interactions (e.g. by analysing DVDs of practice), evaluate whether these interactions are currently happening in their classes/rooms and act on that evidence to improve practice. We also use a range of tools to support practitioners in tuning in to children, using careful observation of key outcomes as the basis of assessment which feeds directly into practice.


Feedback is a powerful tool for improvement. We use research tools such as the Environment Rating Scales to provide feedback through observation.

Support for team-based quality improvement

We provide active support for a whole-team approach to improvement, and also encourage networking between early years settings and schools to build effective communities of practice.

Child Outcomes at the Core of your Professional Development

The following ELEMENTS of successful professional development are needed for effective implementation of the approach, with improvements to child outcomes at the core. We are here to help you create a professional development project built on your current practice, designed around your priorities and with your budget in mind. Whilst we offer all elements, we recognise that we may not deliver them all, depending e.g. on your primary purpose, previous experience or funding.

Elements of Successful Professional Development


Child outcomes

Child outcomes are at the heart of our approach. Based on extensive evidence, our professional development courses focus primarily on developing early language and communication, the foundational skills which children need to become competent and capable learners and to succeed in KS1 and beyond.

Practitioner courses

Our courses are designed for all early years practitioners, teachers and teaching assistants, as well as those in a leadership role. Attendees will learn to use research-validated tools to support self-evaluation and improvement, by gaining a deeper understanding of how children learn, evaluating current practices and identifying areas for development. Our toolkit provides a framework to support practitioners in understanding how to translate research into practice within their classes/rooms, and what this might look like for their children.

Mentor courses

These courses provide high-level professional development for individuals responsible for supporting quality improvement, enabling them to mentor others in the approach (i.e. using research tools to support quality). Drawing on evidence about effective coaching and mentoring, these courses are designed to increase the impact of the practitioner courses by preparing mentors to support in-class/room implementation.

Partnership and project planning

We work in partnership with those who commission us to co-construct effective quality improvement projects; combining elements to ensure professional development programmes are focussed on child outcomes, build on current practice and are designed around local priorities and budget.

Building Blocks


Every project is unique. The design of your programme will be matched to your specific requirements by selecting one or more of the available BUILDING BLOCKS:

Practitioner courses


  • To gain a deeper understanding of how children learn, and how to support that learning through a strong evidence-based adult-role.
  • To establish and embed effective observation and assessment of children’s development.
  • To develop an effective and sustainable self-evaluation and improvement cycle including engaging team members in the approach.
  • To articulate and evidence best practice and progress to others, including Ofsted.


  • Early Years practitioners, teachers, teaching assistants.
  • Early Years coordinators, room leaders, setting managers/leaders.
  • Others with responsibility for supporting quality improvement in schools and settings – combined with mentor course.

Suitable for groups of between 12 and 30 delegates to encourage community of practice and offer value for money.

Course structure

3, 4 or 5-day courses planned with several weeks between course days to allow time for implementation within the setting. Offered as full or half days.


Course Content is structured around a series of modules focusing on the different domains of oral language development – communication, vocabulary, grammar & narrative and rich contexts for promoting these domains including books and reading, play and investigation, exploration and problem-solving.

Each module links theory and evidence-based practice focused on enhancing oral language teaching and learning. The longer the course, the more language domains it can cover, giving a deeper understanding over a wider range of contexts.

Mentor courses


  • To develop an understanding of the role of mentor/coach when using research tools as part of improvement support.
  • To enhance observation skills using the Environment Rating Scales (ERS).
  • To gain a deeper knowledge and understanding of using the ERS to measure and record changes in quality.
  • To improve the impact of practitioner professional development by preparing mentors to support in-class/room implementation of the approach, including supporting practitioners in joint observations.


  • Early Years Leaders/Managers, Specialist Leaders in Education, Local Authority Advisors or others with responsibility for supporting quality improvement in schools and settings – combined with practitioner course.

Suitable for groups of up to 12 delegates.

Course structure

1 – 5-day mentor courses. Offered as full days/half days either alongside the practitioner course or as a separate course.


Course content will be designed to suit your specific context and could include: the characteristics od effective mentoring/coaching, developing the role of a mentor/coach within your specific project/context; high level training in using the ERS for observation (including guided observation visits); gaining a deeper knowledge of the ERS tools and an introduction to using the ERS reliability.

Project launch for participants, head teachers and senior leaders

Launches are designed to promote engagement and provide an overview of our approach. In addition to potential training participants, we encourage attendance from team members who will be involved in implementing the approach within the classroom (e.g. teaching assistants) and from senior leaders. Usually 1.5-2 hours.

Specialist mentoring

Our highly experienced mentors can offer support to practitioners, their teams and children on their quality improvement journey using research tools and evidence-based approaches.

Follow up workshop

An opportunity to come together after working to implement the approach for a period of time, to refresh, review and plan for continued sustainability.

Audits and guided visits as part of wider projects

Guided small group visits provide an opportunity to practise using the ERS as an observation tool within a setting, either using selected items from a particular scale linked to your PD programme or one of the ERS tools as a whole. Our highly experienced observers can complete audits, using one ERS tool or a combination of tools as required to meet your project aims.


To evaluate the impact of your project. This would include summary report including headlines from mentoring support visits, feedback from Early Years team, evaluations of training, observation data and / or any additional evidence collected.

We believe (and evidence suggests) that all these ingredients are needed for effective quality improvement. For this reason, we have moved away from using tools such as the ERS to provide observation and feedback (i.e. for ‘audit’) without also focusing on supporting understanding of how children learn and why certain elements need to be in place. As a result, we now rarely provide Observation Training on the ERS as a stand-alone service.

Examples of possible projects

  • For Local Authorities or groups of schools / settings

  • Briefing

  • For Local Authorities or groups of schools / settings

  • For individual schools / settings

  • Staff Briefing

  • For individual schools / settings

We look forward to developing an effective package and course content to suit the specific requirements of your group. Please note that the design of your programme will evolve during discussion. The structure will be refined at each stage as we gather more information about your needs and final project designs often look quite different to the original idea proposed.

For more information or support in planning a briefing session for your group please email:
or call A+ Education on 0161 4348950.
We welcome groups of schools via an individual lead school, Local Authority, Teaching school or Academy.  Not only will higher delegate numbers be more cost effective for you, this structure also enables participants to work with the range of tools individually while offering the opportunity to share findings, engage in professional reflective dialogue to validate and consolidate thinking and understanding.