Raising boys’ achievement

PEN has been awarded a grant from the Headley (Sainsbury) Trust to help parents and carers in supporting boys’ learning and development and address the gap in achievement.

We will develop a tip sheet for parents, a KS1 project including a workshop for parents and activities to motivate boys and another KS2 detective reading project particularly designed to appeal to boys.

We are looking for schools to help us to develop and trial resources. Schools will get free training and resources in return for feedback.

For training dates please see here.

Early years and home learning

Damian Hinds, the Education Secretary, raised concerns about children’s language development and the home learning environment and talked about needing to explore how “media and modern technology can help to raise awareness and build parents’ confidence around what they can do to help their child’s early language development.”

“It is a persistent scandal that we have children starting school not able to communicate in full sentences, not able to read simple words.”

Building on the Sutton Trust /Oxford University research which showed how PEN’s home learning project impacted on the home learning environment, PEN has applied to the Education Endowment Fund to undertake a larger research project in the North West.

“The home learning environment can be, understandably, the last taboo in education policy – but we can’t afford to ignore it when it comes to social mobility.”

Damian Hinds – Education Secretary

Manchester schools: apply now!

We are looking for 10 schools to help us develop an exciting new national pilot project based in Manchester and funded by Sport England. The project will start in September and is one of just 22 projects across the country that has won funding.

Do you want to:

  • Improve the health and wellbeing of families at your school?
  • Improve children’s fitness levels and their readiness to learn?
  • Develop the skills of parent volunteers to support other families and the school?
  • Increase parental engagement and support the school’s community cohesion?
  • Develop a longer term sustainable model to enable families to get more active together?
  • Enable families to develop positive networks and reduce isolation?

If so, apply to get involved in our new funded Active Families Project!

What does the project involve?

We plan to train a member of staff and three parent volunteers from each school as Family Activity Champions and enable them to facilitate groups of families to commit to becoming more active together. This would include:

  • After-school activities. This is block of six sessions of fun activities for families held directly after school one night of the week on school premises (A member of school staff would need to be present) Ten different families would do a block of sessions each term which would include a range of accessible activities such as games, skipping, treasure hunts and dance (a total of 30 families over the year).
  • Home activities. From these sessions families would also be given activities or challenges to do together at home to try and increase their regular daily activity levels. If they attend the six sessions and complete the home activities they get a bronze award.
  • Community Activities. As part of a silver award families would then be encouraged to access other opportunities and facilities in the community in the evenings and weekends (e.g. swimming, cycling, badminton, activities in parks etc.)
  • Families who could show that they had sustained increased activity over several terms would then get a gold award.

This is a two year project. During the second year we would offer continued support to help schools to embed the project and deliver successful elements of the project to a further 30 families (including enabling training and support of further Champions as required).

There will be an option for Champions to get accreditation (e.g. level 2 City and Guilds Award in facilitating groups or working with parents) for their work.

This project is to be aimed primarily at families from low socio-economic groups (parents whose highest qualification is GCSE, low paid workers or those on benefits).

If these families are a minority at your school, we may still able to work with you but we would have to ensure that mainly the target families would access the project.

We would need the pilot schools to agree to:

  • Allocate one or two members of staff to be involved with the project including helping to facilitate the after school sessions at the school, supporting the Family Activity Champions and encouraging families to do the home and community activities.
  • Recruit appropriate parents to be Champions and identify and encourage targeted families to attend the sessions.
  • Provide a hall or gym suitable for 30 adults and children to do family activities immediately after school one day a week for 18 weeks of the year.
  • Allocate a member of SLT to have an overview of the project and support its development including enabling recruitment, publicity, monitoring, evaluation and celebration of successful families.
  • Staff attending the briefings, training and review sessions.
  • In the second year pay a small contribution towards resources ( max £300) out of the school’s Sports Premium funding
  • Lend some equipment e.g. balls, beanbags and bibs.

In return, PEN will provide

  • Six days of comprehensive training for the parent volunteers (Family Activity Champions).
  • Briefing for a senior leader and training for the staff supporting the project.
  • Ongoing support and visits to the school
  • All the resources needed to help recruit families and run the sessions, including publicity, Active Family Bags, activity cards and resources to support the activities, family record cards, resources needed for the after-school activities, certificates and incentives etc.
  • Funding to support families to access activities.
  • Opportunities to recognise, celebrate and publicise nationally the successful outcomes at your school

If you want to find out more please come to a special briefing session to be held on Thursday 5th July at the Windrush Centre M16 7WD. There will be two sessions.

  • 2.00 – 3.00 OR
  • 3.30 – 4.30

Please email helen@penetwork.co.uk to book a place at a briefing.

Alternatively you can just fill in and return the application form by Friday 13th July to helen@penetwork.co.uk.

We will let you know by Thursday 19th July if you have a place on the project.

OVO Foundation funds Engaging Parents Effectively in Liverpool

OVO Foundation has funded us to roll out the Mouse Club transition and home learning project to 8 schools in Liverpool and look at how to sustain and further roll out the work for a second year.

Mouse Club involves getting children ready to start school. Schools or settings run workshops in June or July and give parents input and fun resources, tip sheets and sticker charts to help prepare their children for school in September.

The home learning project helps parents to do fun activities at home that support their children’s learning and develop the confidence of staff to work more closely with parents.

The project was trialled as part of a randomised control trial and was found to be effective by the Sutton Trust and the Department of Education at Oxford University, according to a report published on the Sutton Trust website.

More about our funded projects…

Funding from the Walcot Foundation to roll out Mouse Club in Lambeth

Walcot Foundation, an independent charity working within Lambeth, have funded us to roll out Mouse Club transition and home learning project to 10 schools in Lambeth.

Mouse Club involves getting children ready to start school. Schools or settings run workshops in June or July and give parents input and fun resources, tip sheets and sticker charts to help prepare their children for school in September.

The home learning project helps parents to do fun activities at home that support their children’s learning and develop the confidence of staff to work more closely with parents.

The project was trialled as part of a randomised control trial and was found to be effective by the Sutton Trust and the Department of Education at Oxford University, according to a report published on the Sutton Trust website.

More about our funded projects…

PEN receives funding from New Philanthropy Capital to produce videos that will help school staff develop parental engagement

This grant will enable us to produce videos to demonstrate skills school staff can develop to improve parental engagement – these include running workshops effectively, communicating with parents about difficult situations, how to get parents involved, coaching parents to better support their children’s learning, etc.

We’ll also develop videos, like the Playclub videos, to show parents how to do activities with their children and to promote our projects.

Active Families Project

We are celebrating after being awarded £314,000 of National Lottery funding from  to help low income families in Manchester get active with their children.

Four out of five primary school children do not get the recommended amount of daily exercise of 60 minutes a day, and are missing out on the benefits it brings. Children from low income families are most likely to do very little physical activity.[1]


We are one of the first projects to receive investment from a £40 million National Lottery funding pot that Sport England has dedicated to helping families get active together.

The fund is a key part of Sport England’s focus on helping young people have an enjoyable experience of sport and physical activity so they develop a positive attitude towards being active at an early age and continue being active in later life.

Sport England are funding organisations that help families get active together, because parents and close family members can have a big impact on children’s experiences. As well as giving children direct access to sporting opportunities, Sport England research[2] shows that they are also significant role models in helping their children get active – because how a parent behaves impacts what a child sees as important.

Parents who are active themselves, and enjoy it, can encourage positive feelings about exercise and its value in their children. Yet many parents lack the skills or confidence to take part in sport with their children as they fear they cannot keep up. For example, if adults don’t know how to swim or lack confidence on a bike, this has a knock-on impact on the activities they feel they can do as a family and how much they encourage children to take part.

Each of the funded projects will work to address this by building adults’ confidence around getting active with their children, and by providing experiences for families that are enjoyable, convenient and low cost.

Using the familiar and friendly school environment, our project will start by enabling families to do fun, accessible activities together after school. They will also be given challenges to take home to help them make their lifestyle more active through small changes to their daily routines. Groups of families will then be encouraged to support each other to be active and to access other opportunities and facilities together in the evenings or weekends’ e.g swimming, cycling or walking. Parent volunteers will be trained as Family Activity Champions to facilitate the activities, boost confidence, overcome barriers and generally support the families in becoming more active.

Sport England’s Director of Children and Young People Jayne Molyneux said:

“It’s not right that four in five children don’t get enough exercise and are missing out on the health benefits it brings. Just by seeing their parents being active, children can be inspired to do the same, and if they have an enjoyable experience they’re far more likely to continue as an adult.”

“Parents have many demands on their time, and often lack the confidence to get active with their children. That’s why Sport England is working hard to make getting active with your children an easy choice. With this new National Lottery funding, PEN will be able to trial a new model enabling families to be part of supportive groups where they encourage each other and experience and enjoy fun activities together. Families will also be helped to identify small lifestyle changes that will increase their activity levels. PEN will explore how parent volunteers can facilitate this work and hopes to produce a model that can be rolled out through schools nationally and materials and training to support this.

Emma Beresford, PEN’s Director, said:

“The Parental Engagement Network, as a Manchester based not-for-profit social enterprise, is delighted to have this amazing opportunity. From our extensive experience we believe that families sometimes struggle to effect change on their own but that, through a support network of other families and encouragement from school staff and parent volunteers they are more likely to make, enjoy and maintain positive life changes. This Lottery Funding will enable us to make a real impact on the activity levels of Manchester families .”

About Sport England

Sport England is a public body and invests up to £300 million National Lottery and government money each year in projects and programmes that help people get active and play sport.

It wants everyone in England, regardless of age, background, or level of ability, to feel able to engage in sport and physical activity. That’s why a lot of its work is specifically focused on helping people who do no, or very little, physical activity and groups who are typically less active – like women, disabled people and people on lower incomes.

[1] The Chief Medical Officer recommends that children and young people do at least 60 minutes of moderate physical activity every day. Currently, just 23% of boys and 20% of girls meet the national recommended level of activity. 47% of children from the households with the lowest incomes do low levels of activity. Health Survey for England 2016: Children’s health information

[2] Sport England commissioned-research conducted by The Behavioural Architects 2017

PEN’s views on the research

Most parents want the best for their children but they aren’t sure what to do to help them. This project was about helping parents understand how their children learn and how to make learning active and fun – and giving them the resources to use.

School staff often haven’t been well trained or resourced to work with parents. The training and sharing with other schools helped the staff to feel more confident and some schools have seen longer term impact on their motivation and ability to work with parents.

It makes a difference if schools reach out to parents early on in nursery – particularly to parents who might find it harder to engage with schools. If barriers are broken down and relationships developed this can have a much longer term impact in terms of parents feeling confident to engage with the school and support their children’s learning. If parents also get to know other parents the relationships and networks they build up can last right through school.

PEN has always believed in the importance of training school staff and that this helps to make the work sustainable. This report clearly recognises that ‘training school staff to deliver workshops and activities directly to parents, which enables the programme to become incorporated into the setting’s practice rather than relying on external professionals, makes an intervention easily embedded within schools, cost effective and sustainable.

Emma Beresford, Director PEN

Click here to read Oxford University‘s positive research findings on Engaging Parents Effectively.