Esmée Fairbairn/Sutton Trust Funded Project: Engaging Parents Effectively

We have developed two training courses based on this project, which are now available to all schools:

Please see here for the Nursery or Reception "Mouse Club" Transition Project

Please see here for the Nursery or Reception Home Learning Project

PEN has developed exciting new parental engagement strategies and resources as part of a national research project.

The PEN project is one of six projects funded as part of a £1m parental engagement fund from the Sutton Trust and Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

The fund complements the work of the Education Endowment Foundation and aims to develop evidence on approaches that can be scaled up and inform best practice for the sector.

Oxford University are leading the evaluation of the randomised control trial.

As part of the project, PEN is training school staff to work more effectively with parents (particularly disadvantaged families) to help them support their children’s learning . The project  is looking at how high quality resources and support from school staff can help parents to improve children's outcomes.

Parents can help children develop a range of skills from helping to establish sleep routines and develop their language when children first start school, to enjoying helping them to learn maths and phonics skills through creative and fun activities. The project also enables parents to build relationships with staff and each other.

Research by the Sutton Trust has found a 19 month gap in school readiness between the richest and the poorest children at age 5. At the same time a new Early Years Toolkit from the Education Endowment Foundation showed that effective parental engagement can boost learning for disadvantaged children.

The PEN project has two parts:


  • the Transition Project (Mouse Club), which supports parents to get their children ready for nursery or reception. Children are given a toy mouse which needs their help to get ready for school. Workshops, tip sheets and ‘Mouse’ home activities enable parents to better support their children’s development. Schools that have trialled the transition project have reported transformed relationships with parents, greater openness and trust, children settling in better, and improved sleeping, eating, behaviour and language development.

  • the Home Learning Project, which helps parents to support their children’s learning once in nursery or reception. This includes the ‘F.U.N.’ (Families Understanding Numeracy) Maths activities, and Playclub bags which help develop phase 1 or 2 phonics.

Both parts of the project are supported with training for nursery and reception staff.

Initial findings about the Home Learning Project

18 schools were recruited to the Home Learning Project (phase 2 of the research). Nine did the intervention and a further nine were control schools as part of a randomised control trial.

Oxford University has not yet completed the analysis of the data from the randomised control trial; however, PEN gathered the following feedback from the intervention schools:

  • To the surprise of some of the staff, over 80% of disadvantaged families targeted by the Phase 2 schools stayed involved in the project over the year attending workshops and doing additional activities with their children at home.
  • 94% of staff said they had developed their skills and confidence in engaging parents—87% in running workshops,  69% in supporting disadvantaged families and 100% in talking to parents about how to support learning at home.
  • All of the Phase 2 schools said that they would continue to use some of the strategies and resources longer term. Most schools are extending learning from the project to other parts of the school.
  • 90% of the 43 parents who completed evaluation forms found the project useful or very useful and 86% thought it had helped their child including with specific aspects of learning, confidence, enjoying time with their parent, communication and team work.
  • A number of schools found that the project had an impact on their children's progress.

At Claremont Primary School:

  • 70% of the targeted children involved in the project made accelerated progress (3+ levels) in reading compared with 45% of the nursery children overall
  •  70% of the children involved in the project made accelerated progress in speaking compared with 48% of the nursery children overall
  •  90% of the children involved in the project made accelerated progress in maths compared with 80% of the nursery children overall

62 schools have been recruited to the 4 phases of the project:

Phase 1: 7 schools trialling the nursery transition and home learning projects

Phase 2: 9 intervention schools* doing the nursery home learning project with 9 control schools**
*(Rack House Primary School, Claremont Primary School, Russell Scott Primary School, Hollingworth primary and Nursery school, Irk Valley Primary School, Newall Green Primary School, Rolls Crescent Primary School, Romiley Primary School, Oasis Academy Harpur Mount)
**(Armitage Primary School, Baguley Hall Primary School, Dane Bank Primary School, Greenfield Primary School , Marlborough Road Academy, Oasis Academy Aspinal, Park View Community School, Poplar Street Primary School, Ravensfield Primary School, St Mary's CE Primary School Moston)

Phase 3: 6 intervention schools* doing the nursery transition and the nursery home learning projects with 11 control schools**
*(Birchfields Primary School, Deepdale Community Primary school, Old Hall Drive  Academy, Chorlton Park Primary School, Poolsbrook Primary School, Whaley Thorns Primary School)
**(Abbey Hey Primary School, Ashbury Meadow Primary School, Birchwood C of E Primary School & Nursery, E-ACT Blackley Academy, Leighton Academy, Mauldeth Road Primary School, The Brow CP School, Bowker Vale Primary School, Crossacres Primary Academy , St Lukes CE Primary School, St.Clements C of E Primary School)

Phase 4: 7 intervention schools* doing the reception transition and home learning projects with 8 control schools**
*(Dean Oaks Primary School, Highfield Primary School, Hillside Community Primary School, St Edmunds RC Primary School, The Heys Primary School, Sharley Park Community Primary School, Fairfield Infant & Nursery School)

**(Ightenhill Primary School , St Johns Catholic Primary School Birch Green, Findern Primary School, New Islington Primary School, St Andrews CE Primary School, Trinity C of E Primary School, Hermitage Primary School, Newbold C of E Primary School)