Getting parents into school is key to literacy success, study finds

Trial found that teaching parents to support young children worked, but few parents turned up

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Parents can help boost their children’s literacy skills through simple tasks such as going to the library or learning through play – but getting parents to commit can be tricky, a new study has found.

The study, published by the Education Endowment Foundation today, found that four- and five-year-olds made around a month’s additional progress in literacy by the end of the year, after their parents attended at least one Family Skills session on how to support their children’s learning.

But the report on the Family Skills programme, which is a programme designed by not-for-profit enterprise Learning Unlimited to support EAL children, also found that only one-third of the families who were offered the sessions turned up for them.

The trial, which was run in 115 primary schools, offered parents weekly two-and-a-half hour sessions with family learning tutors over a term.

The sessions focused on topics like reading to children, phonics, making the most of bilingualism, learning through play, and understanding primary education in England. Families were encouraged to do learning activities at home with their children, and were also given opportunities to visit a local library and take a tour of their child’s school.

“We know that it can be very difficult to get parents more involved in their children’s learning. This new research tells us how difficult it is to expect parents to turn up at school for classes of their own,” Sir Kevan Collins, chief executive of the Education Endowment Foundation, said.

“Taken together, our body of parental engagement research gives schools hugely useful insights into how we can better engage parents with children’s learning – which has the potential to have a significant impact on their results.”

Schools taking part in the trial found that regular reminders to parents and personalised recruitment helped to boost attendance, and tutors reported that having five weeks, rather than two, to speak to and recruit parents before the programme started would have been beneficial.  

Previous research from the EEF studies has found that parents can miss out on such support when they are not being able to find the time because of work or childcare commitments, or are reluctant to attend because their own experiences of school were not positive.

But one trial which offered classes for parents in how to help their 7 to 11-year-olds in English and maths found that parents who were paid £30 to attend each session were more likely to attend.

The research comes after the Department for Education announced a £5 million home learning environment fund, run by the EEF, to give families extra support to help with children’s early language and communication skills.

Last month, a poll conducted by Oxford University Press found most teachers are reporting an increase in children at risk of underperforming because of their limited grasp of the vocabulary.

 

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