Results from a trial of a parental home learning project on children’s development during their time in nursery, in which staff were trained to work closely with parents and to support them in helping their children to learn, found that parental involvement had a significant effect on children’s home learning environment. In most cases it also improved their academic progress.
An evaluation of the Parental Engagement Network (PEN) Home Learning Project was carried out by Fiona Jelley and Kathy Sylva from the University of Oxford’s Department of Education and has been published today (22 November) by the Sutton Trust.
Eighteen schools from Greater Manchester, which recruited 167 families, took part in PEN's Engaging Parents Effectively project, which prioritised disadvantaged three- and four-year-olds and those eligible for the Early Years Pupil Premium. Half of the schools were allocated to the intervention group, while the other half to the control group.
Under the trial, staff in intervention schools were trained in the Home Learning Project and delivered the ‘intervention’ to families over the course of an academic year. Parents were invited to attend two to four workshops per term and took home activities and Playclub bags to use with their children at home related to maths, phonics and other aspects of the EYFS.
Parents and teachers measured children’s outcomes before and after the programme.
Comparing the outcomes of the intervention schools and those in the control group, the evaluation found a difference in home learning environment (HLE) scores, with an increase of 4.71 points for the intervention group compared to the control group.
Family support also increased in the intervention group compared to the control group.
According to the evaluation 90 per cent of parents found the project ‘useful’ or ‘very useful’.
One parent from Newall Green Primary School said, ‘It has helped my son’s confidence and helped him to concentrate (he can’t sit down for more than a few minutes). They were all great activities. Our best had to be "Get Active" (counting star jumps) and "Shape Hunt". It helped me to understand my son.’
Looking at the impact on staff, the analysis reveals that 94 per cent of staff reported they had gained confidence and skills in working with parents through the training and implementing the project.
Lorna Cumberbatch, teaching assistant at Claremont Primary School said, ‘I’ve learnt about the importance of building relationships with parents and how to make workshops with parents informal and fun.’
Staff also reported that their relaxed, informal, hands-on workshops helped to build good relationships among parents, as well as between parents and staff, leading to some parents supporting each other to do the activities.
Most schools thought that the intervention had a positive effect on children’s progress in the EYFS profile outcomes. According to the evaluation, at one school, Claremont Primary School, 70 per cent of the children involved in the project made accelerated progress in teacher-assessed reading, as well as speaking compared with the year group as a whole.
Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust and the Education Endowment Foundation, said, ‘We know that the attainment gap between the richest and the poorest pupils begins before they’ve even started school. Tackling this gap early on is critical to breaking the cycle of disadvantage and improving social mobility.
‘But it can be difficult to get parents involved in their child’s learning. These results show the potential for the Engaging Parents Effectively project. It is an effective way of improving parental engagement with the support of schools and shows that it is worthwhile putting time and energy into doing so.’