STEP project for early years (2018 to 2020)

In 2018  the Cambridge Early Years Teaching School  began to work in partnership with the Cambridgeshire Local Authority,  Early Years and Childcare Service.  The Local Authority had already made a commitment to deliver STEP training to Primary/Secondary schools in the authority. The E Y childcare service decided that the benefits of the behavior management approach embedded in the STEP training would be beneficial to practitioners working in the Childcare/Foundation stage sector. By providing universal training for this sector, young children would benefit from the continuity of approach and settings would be supported to continue to develop Inclusive practice.

STEP is an approach to managing children’s behavior, the term means ‘the steps needed to be taken/put into place in order to support children to manage their own feelings and regulate their behavior.

The main issue for the Local Authority was the cost of providing STEP training to all early years’ practitioners and the logistics of covering a high number of settings and foundation stage practitioners working in schools.  The ratio of practitioners to children in settings means there are many more practitioners in the workforce. The model of delivery of STEP training in Primary schools is: that one member of staff attends a 3-day training event and then goes back to their school and trains the rest of the staff. They top up their training on an annual basis by attending a refresher course and then the updates are cascaded to staff in the school.

The above model of delivery is more difficult to replicate in the early years sector as there is more movement of staff between settings and a much higher number of staff working in the sector. The STEP training model requires all staff working in a setting to attend the training and it is this that obtains a consistent approach to supporting children to manage their feelings independently.

In July 2018 CEYTSA obtained a grant from the Freemans charity to provide STEP training to practitioners working in settings in the Huntingdon Town area that the grant covered.

STEP training was provided for all staff in the 9 settings that the grant funding covered. STEP training requires attendance for 6 hours and so, to fit into work patterns, training was offered in twilight sessions, in 3 hours blocks, or on setting  training days (if they had any) and on Saturdays. The training was provided free of charge, but it required a commitment from the whole setting staff, Manager, SENCO’s and all practitioners etc. to give their time to complete the training.

The project was very successful, providing practitioners with confidence to further develop and promote inclusive approaches to managing children, some of which may have SEND and who may be more at risk of making a successful transition into school.

Following the success of the training programme in Huntingdon, CEYTSA applied for an Innovate and Cultivate fund grant to enable the delivery of STEP training in the St. Neots cluster area of pre-schools and early years’ settings. In October 2019 the training programme commenced delivered either in the preschools own setting or from the Diamond Teaching schools training facilities at Winhills primary school/St. Neots. To date 165 practitioners have been trained with a further 24 waiting for training (Corvid-19).

Current Issues:

Finding funding to deliver STEP training so that all practitioners in Early Years settings can access STEP training. The Local Authority are working with CEYTSA to provide training, but the model is most successful when all staff working in a setting attends the training – this has implications for setting managers, cost etc. but the main message here is that all staff work together to provide consistency of approach – it works because all staff hear the same message about how to approach and support children that are learning to regulate their behaviour.

 Unequal access to free STEP training. CEYTSA are really pleased to have obtained grant funding and will continue to apply for funds in areas that are identified as having a funding route (charity, local government route etc.)but this means that the training is not available in all areas of the County. We continue to look for funding routes and will train setting staff if they are able to provide a venue and can cover the cost of the STEP trainer. Settings can join together as training can include up to 36 participants (venue dependent).


Very positive feedback from setting staff that have already participated in STEP training. The funding so far includes a refresher training-type meeting delivered a year on from the original training to help settings to maintain the STEP approach. CEYTSA also provides follow up surgery-type support for settings facing particular challenges.

Settings, confidently re-visit their behaviour policy and over time ensure that the policy supports their everyday practice and provides them with a ‘job description’ of how to promote, manage and develop inclusive practice.

Staff support each other and take responsibility for all children rather than thinking that managing a particular child’s behaviour is someone else’s responsibility. New to workforce staff and apprentices are supported from the early stages of their employment in the STEP approach that is embedded in the setting practice.

STEP proforma’s and  behavior analysis tools help monitor and record children’s behaviour  and provide appropriate evidence for staff to apply for SENIF funding.

Children who have attended settings where staff have received STEP training are able to make good transitions into school – particularly where the staff in the receiving school have also been STEP trained. This reduces the risk of children having their hours reduced – ‘reduced hours attendance’ and of exclusion.

STEP training – St. Ives

Following on from the success of the STEP project delivered in the ST.Neot’s area of Cambridgeshire in Autumn 2019-Summer 2020. CEYTSA have obtained further grant funding from the Cambridge  Community Foundation, Innovate to Cultivate scheme.

This will provide funding to deliver STEP training (A therapeutic approach to children’s behaviour management) to practitioners working across the foundation stage  in preschool and school settings (21 settings in total) in the St. Ives area of Cambridgeshire. Work will now start to plan the roll out of this training which is hoped will be delivered in the school year 2020-2021. More detailed information will be available after the planning stage has been completed and the Covid-19 situation is clear.

Details of the delivery of this 6 hour STEP training for all Early Years Practitioners will be posted in the training section of this website. Settings included in the bid funding will also be contacted directly by our programme manager, Kay Blayney  in advance of the start of the training.

             CEYTSA STEP team.