We know that a child’s life chances are heavily determined at birth. Even before they start school, disadvantaged children are often behind their better off peers. And by age eleven the gap between pupils receiving free school meals and their peers stands at 18% in reading, writing and mathematics.
But we have a way to change this! Engaging parents in their children's early literacy development has been shown to improve children's outcomes and help to narrow the gap between disadvantaged and other children.
The Sutton Trust in partnership with the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation has created the Parental Engagement Fund (PEF), which is supporting the growth, increased effectiveness and measurement of impact of parental engagement projects aimed at improving children’s cognitive development. NCB’s, Making it REAL: is an award-winning programme that works with practitioners to support children’s early literacy development.
Drawn from the original Raising Early Achievement in Literacy project by Professors Cathy Nutbrown and Peter Hannon, Making it REAL enables practitioners to reach out to parents and families, building confidence and knowledge to support early home learning, with a powerful impact on children’s outcomes and on family literacy practice.
As part of their work on the Parental Engagement fund, our Early Childhood Unit is working with Oldham Council:
- Trialling a 4 x 4 model of the Making it REAL intervention in which practitioners deliver four group literacy events and four home visits to each family over the course of a year. Alongside a two day training course, practitioners attend two network meetings during the year at which they share ideas on effective practice and how to overcome common challenges.
- They are also running a waiting list control trial in collaboration with Oldham Council across ten of its early years settings. Each setting has recruited ten families to the trial with children aged between 3- 4. The ten settings were randomly allocated to early and late starter groups. In order to attempt to create ‘balanced’ groups, the allocation was stratified according to ‘high’, ‘medium’ and ’low’ levels of REAL activity in the setting. The early starter settings are receiving the REAL intervention in the 2015/16 school year. Late starter settings will receive it the following year. In 2015/16 the late starter settings are offering an alternative intervention (in the form of a one-off healthy eating event).
Why is it important?
Research has found a solid foundation in reading and communication is crucial to a child’s success as they progress through primary and secondary school and then in later life.
The Making it REAL programme in Oldham provides the opportunity to contribute to and further extend the research evidence base by showing the difference this intervention can make compared to ‘business as usual’ in nurseries and pre-schools.
Our trial work with the Parental Engagement Fund could lead to new best practice for the whole sector and offer an evidenced based intervention which can be delivered flexibly and effectively via a range of early years organisations.
Results from the trial are available here; the evaluation was conducted by the University of Oxford.