375 schools and nurseries across the North of England are wanted to test four projects that support parents to improve their children’s early language and literacy skills before they start school.

The four projects are being funded through a partnership between SHINE, the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), and the Department for Education. The trials were announced by the Education Secretary Damian Hinds at the end of 2018 and are designed to give parents the tools and advice they need to support their child’s learning at home.

Data shows many children arrive at school struggling with language and social skills, putting them at a disadvantage when they begin their formal education and making it harder for them to master the fundamentals of reading that other children take for granted.

If you work on behalf of a nursery or school in Yorkshire, the North East or the North West, register your interest to take part in the trials now.

Schools in the North East can take part in the trial of Tips by Text, a project developed by the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT). Over nine months, parents of four and five-year-olds will be sent three texts each week to help embed activities that promote literacy, numeracy and socioemotional skill development at home. A typical message might read “Counting is one of the first maths skills that children learn. As you put the dishes away, count the plates 1-by-1 with your child. Try again with the bowls.”

The other three projects are:

  • Making-it-REAL, delivered by the National Children’s Bureau, trains early years practitioners to deliver home visits and literacy events to families in order to improve early literacy. 120 early years settings in Greater Manchester and Yorkshire can take part.
  • Group Triple P (Positive Parenting Program), supports early years practitioners to deliver targeted sessions to parents that aim to improve children’s language, and social and emotional development. 1,800 three – four year olds in 150 early years settings can take part.
  • The ParentChild+, delivered by Family Lives, is an intensive home visiting programme focused on improving disadvantaged 2-year olds’ language and social and emotional development. 320 families in Doncaster, Rotherham, Sheffield and Barnsley can take part.

All four trials will be independently evaluated.

Fiona Spellman, CEO of SHINE, added:

“We’re delighted to be partnering with the EEF to deliver the Home Learning Environment Fund. Research consistently shows that communication and language difficulties in the early years can hold back children for the rest of their time in education. These programmes are a great way of seeing how we can make a real difference at an early stage and support all children to achieve their potential.”

Sir Kevan Collins Chief Executive of the EEF, said:

“Parents want the best for their children, whatever their background or wherever they come from. But it can sometimes be difficult to get parents involved in their child’s learning in practical ways which make a difference and we know little about how to do this well.

“By testing different ways of improving the home learning environment – from texts to parents to home visits – these new trials will give us much needed information about how we can give mums and dads the tools they need to give their child the very best start in life.

“I’m delighted that we’re able to partner with SHINE on this project. They have excellent networks in the North of England and will help us to make sure we reach those schools, nurseries and families most in need of support.”

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