Can 20 minutes a day of story activities help parents boost their children’s language skills?

A new study will find out if an early language teaching programme which is delivered by parents at home for 20 minutes each day can improve young children’s language and early literacy skills, the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) announced today.

Families of pre-school children (aged 3 years) in 45 nurseries will take part in the trial of Parents and Children Together (PACT). The PACT programme, developed by researchers now at the University of Manchester and the University of Oxford,aims to provide parents with the skills, strategies and resources to support their children’s language development at home.

At the beginning of the programme, parents will go to a two-hour session where they’ll be supported to use the programme materials. Over 30 weeks, they’ll spend 20 minutes every day delivering the programme to their child. Activities include interactive book reading, talking about new words, and storytelling skills. BookTrust, a national literacy charity, has worked with the developers to produce the programme materials.

An independent team from the University of Durham will evaluate the PACT trial to find out what impact the programme has on children’s language skills, and how parents and children respond to the programme. The EEF is funding this trial because a smaller trial of PACT, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, found that children who took part in the programme made larger gains in language than those who did not.

The EEF has also announced another new study today too:

5,880 pupils in 140 primary schools will take part in a trial of a classroom management programmes called STARS. Delivered by a team from the University of Exeter, the programme supports teachers to improve behaviour in their classroom by developing their classroom management technique. Teachers will receive training over 6 whole-day workshops delivered over 6 months. The focus of the workshops will be on collaborative learning – discussions of teachers’ own experiences and group work – to find solutions to problems encountered in the classroom.

Sir Kevan Collins, Chief Executive of the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), said:

We know that children from poorer homes are already behind their better-off classmates when they start school. We also know that the quality of the home learning environment and parental engagement are key predictors of whether a child is likely to succeed at school and in life.

Some parents feel anxious about reading to their children, particularly if their own literacy skills aren’t great. Others worry that they can’t afford the same sort of books or trips out that other families can.

This new trial will test a programme that aims to provide parents with the skills, strategies and resources to support their children’s language development at home. Our independent evaluation will find out what impact the programme has on children’s language and early literacy skills across a large number of early years settings.

Notes to editors:

  1. The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) is a grant-making charity set up in 2011 by the Sutton Trust as lead foundation in partnership with Impetus Trust (now part of Impetus–The Private Equity Foundation), with a £125m founding grant from the Department for Education. The EEF is dedicated to breaking the link between family income and educational achievement.
  2. Early years settings and state schools in England can apply to take part in the trials. More information can be found on the EEF’s website.