About the 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 have led the evaluation of the randomised control trial.

As part of the project, PEN has trained school staff from 58 schools 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.


We are very grateful to the support of the following individuals in developing this work:

Ruth Levy (EY2P), Lisa Taylor (Martenscroft Nursery Schools and Children’s Centre), Erica Splawnyk, Janet Davies (Associate and trainer), Jo Bricher (designer), Helen Beswick (administrator) , Janet Mannion (Playclub supplier)

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 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.

I have been very impressed by the uptake and the very positive outcomes from the project. This is exactly what we need – practical fun ways to engage parents in learning.

Sarah Rudd, Headteacher at Newall Green Primary School