Projects for disadvantage get share of £1m fund

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Six projects designed to raise the attainment of disadvantaged children from the age of two have been granted a share of £1m in funding.

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Peep Pre-school is run by the charity Peeple, which will use the funding to encourage local parents to take up funded places for two year olds

The money has been made available through a new Parental Engagement Fund from the Sutton Trust and Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, a grant-making foundation.

All six projects are intended to help close the gap between the most and least advantaged children when they start school. They also build on the knowledge that involving parents in their children's learning is one of the most effective ways to improve outcomes.

One of the projects to win long-term backing is Peep into Pre-School by the charity Peeple, which will aim to tackle the low take-up of the funded two-year-old places within Oxford.

Another is the REAL project, which will provide practitioners in Oldham, Greater Manchester, with training to help parents undertake home learning activities to raise early achievement in literacy.

The project, being delivered by the National Children's Bureau (NCB) Early Childhood Unit, builds on the Raising Early Achievement in Literacy (REAL) approach developed by Cathy Nutbrown and Peter Hannon from the University of Sheffield.

Joyce Connor, director of the Early Childhood Unit at the NCB, said, 'Parents are the first and most important educators of their children, and the REAL programme harnesses their potential to play an active role.'

The Parental Engagement Network has also received a share of the funding to deliver its Engaging Parents Effectively training programme. Under the programme, school staff in Greater Manchester, north and south Wales, Hull, Birmingham, Surrey and Devon will be trained to deliver parental engagement workshops.

Another project to benefit is Howgill Family Centre's Grow our Own programme, which aims to help parents in Cumbria become more aware of the importance of being involved in their child's learning.

Other projects to receive funding are Stories for You and Yours - a programme by The Reader Organisation, based in Sefton, Merseyside, to encourage shared reading, and EasyPeasy, an app designed to help parents support their child's learning and development.

All six of the projects will be evaluated by professors Kathy Sylva and Naomi Eisenstadt from the Department of Education at the University of Oxford.

Professor Kathy Slyva said, 'I'm delighted that Esmee Fairbairn and Sutton Trust have joined forces to support such promising, British programmes through implementation and evaluation advice.

'It is well known that parents have a very strong influence on their children's learning, but changing parents' behaviour to encourage engagement in learning is hard.

'Many organisations work hard without really knowing if what they are doing has a real impact.

This new initiative will ensure that the six organisations chosen understand how to measure the impact of what they do, and as importantly what parts of their programme are vitally important to deliver improvements for children and parents.

'The breadth of work across the six organisations is enormous and we will be challenged to provide support, for example, in evaluating such different programmes.'

Peep into Pre-School

Run by the charity Peeple, Peep into Pre-School will focus on reaching and engaging families with eligible two-year-olds within an area of Oxford to make the most of their free childcare place.

The charity will achieve this by working closely with the local children's centre to identify eligible families. These families will be visited by Peeple, which will introduce them to pre-schools in their area offering the places. This may include the charity's newly opened pre-school in Greater Leys.

According to Peeple's chief executive Sally Smith, additional home visits would be carried out if needed to discuss the benefits of early education on aspects such as enhancing children's communication and language.

A number of 'parent champions' will be chosen to promote the value of pre-schools to families within the community.

Those that take up their child's place will receive support to ensure a smooth transition into pre-school. This will include the chance to attend Peeple's evidence-based Learning Together Programme - a ten-week accredited scheme to help strengthen adult-child relationships.

As part of Peep into Pre-School, the charity will also hold a series of events for parents about how they can support their child's communication and language; personal, social and emotional development; and early literacy and numeracy.

VCS GRANTS: WHITE WORKING CLASS BOYS' ACHIEVEMENT

Other funding announced in the last couple of weeks include the Department for Education's Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) grants programme for 2015-16.

One charity to benefit is the Centre for Research in Early Childhood (CREC), set up by professors Tony Bertram and Chris Pascal, which will use its £97,000 in funding to undertake a national 12-month project to identify how the achievement of white working class boys could be improved. Researchers from CREC will work with families of 30 high-achieving white working class boys to identify what factors have led to their success, and see if they can be replicated for a greater number of boys.

Following the study, CREC will produce a range of practical, free online resources for parents and teachers designed to improve the outcome of white working class boys.

Professor Bertram, co-director of CREC, said, 'There is already a great deal of knowledge about why children from white working class communities underachieve, but we want to recognise that despite those barriers many white working class boys are high achievers and go on to do great things.

'This piece of work will look for those positive role models and identify how we can support more white working class boys to fulfill their potential.'

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