Parents given financial incentives to attend parenting classes

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A new pilot scheme will see parents of primary school children in Middlesborough and Camden offered money to attend parenting academy sessions.

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Due to start next year, the scheme will measure whether improving parental engagement could have a significant impact on improving the outcomes of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Around 1,500 disadvantaged families in Middlesborough and the London borough of Camden with primary age children will take part in the pilot.

Parents of children in Years 3, 4 and 5, will be invited to attend ‘parenting academy’ sessions to help them support their children’s learning in numeracy, literacy and science. The sessions will take place three times per half term and each last 90 minutes.

Reports suggest that a third of the parents will be paid up to £600 if they attend the full course, to determine whether financial incentives improve attendance.

An evaluation of the scheme, funded by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), will be carried out by NatCen, which is expected to report its findings in 2016.

As part of the evaluation, children’s literacy, numeracy and cognitive ability, will be measured before and after parents attend the sessions.

Kevan Collins, chief executive of the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), said, ‘Parents are a child’s first educators, and their ability to support their children’s learning can have a big impact on whether or not their child succeeds at school and in later life. Where parents themselves don’t know enough about basic maths or literacy, they can’t help with homework and support teachers.

 ‘Tens of millions of pounds has been spent by successive governments on lots of different parenting initiatives. But very few of them have been subjected to rigorous evaluation. That means that they may not have been a particularly good use of public funds.That’s what the EEF is about, making sure that public money is well spent and that it is making a difference to children’s results.
 
‘This project includes financial payments so that parents can afford the childcare and time off work needed to take part. If it works, it could save significantly on the future benefit bill by improving the parents’ skills and ensuring that their children don’t become NEETs.
 
‘However, at this stage, we are simply testing whether or not it works. If it does, we will say so. But if it doesn’t, we will also say so. That way we can ensure that the best parenting interventions are used in ways that help parents and their children, and provide taxpayers with value for money.’