Home Education Working with parents in the early years to get more children ready...

Working with parents in the early years to get more children ready for school – FE News


Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, disadvantaged children started school an average of 4.5 months behind their peers (EPI, 2020). At the end of the reception year, children are most behind in maths, followed by literacy and language and communication skills.

In England, around 43% of children in need of free school meals did not achieve a good level of development in the year of reception, compared to only 26% of their peers (DfE, 2019 year).

The gap is expected to widen further after the pandemic due to the impact of nursery and school closures on children’s early education, as well as the financial and emotional impact of the pandemic on families, which is expected to affect poorer sections of the population. families have a harder time (EPI, 2020).

What Reasons in School Readiness A gap?

Children growing up in poverty are at greater risk of poor outcomes compared to their peers (Batchelor et al. etc., 2022). Research shows that the effects of low family income on children’s early development can be both direct (reducing the resources parents need to buy things their children need) and indirect, causing stress on parents that can negatively impact their parenting abilities (Batchelor et al. etc., 2022). However, while poverty creates additional stress for families, negative effects on child outcomes are not inevitable; parenting can have a protective effect even in difficult circumstances (Kiernan and Mensa, 2011).

Challenges with Supporting Families

The recent increase in relative child poverty poses serious challenges for families with young children (Stewart & Reader, 2021). Local services also have less capacity to support parenting and home learning due to funding cuts to childcare centers since 2010 (Batchelor et al. etc., 2022). A greater share of early childhood funding now goes to free early childhood education starting at age 2 for children from disadvantaged backgrounds (Hobbs and Bernard, 2021).

In this context of limited public resources, the support that local areas can provide for parenting and home education needs to be either targeted or affordable. This creates challenges for trying to impact the school readiness gap at scale. Effective parenting support models are needed, but low-cost models are in short supply. Most well-validated models of supporting children’s cognitive development through the home environment involve intensive home visiting (Asmussen et al., 2016).

For example, one of the most reasonable models is Family Nurse Practitioner Partnership, which offers new moms 64 home visits from early pregnancy until their child is 2 years old. At this level of intensity, it is possible to offer targeted support only to those families who need it most. Although greater access to support would be beneficial, there is currently insufficient evidence that easier parenting programs can have lasting effects on children’s cognitive outcomes (Batchelor et al. etc., 2022).

Opportunities for Innovation

While the school readiness gap poses serious challenges for the underclassmen in the current financial climate, there is reason for hope. Evidence and practice in this area are constantly evolving, and there are opportunities to innovate and adapt existing models to lower the cost of childbirth to reach more parents. One such example is the child care program Empowering parents, empowering communities, which trains peer facilitators (local parents) to run group sessions with parents to help improve the quality of interactions with children and increase their confidence. This program has promising evidence of its impact on children’s behavioral outcomes and can be implemented at low cost (EIF, 2016). This peer-led model of parenting support is a promising approach to build upon.

There is also growing evidence that online parenting programs can be as effective as in-person programs (Spencer et al., 2020). Digital support for parents, for example Triple P Online, can offer parents more flexibility in accessing support and also reduce the cost of delivery. There are opportunities to explore how peer-led and digital approaches can be combined to create flexible support models that enable more parents to access support.

There is also an opportunity to explore how the digital tools that children use (such as apps and other digital media) can support children’s development in the home environment, developing their literacy and numeracy skills. A recent review of educational programs found that they can have a positive effect on children’s literacy and numeracy (Kim et al., 2021). However, many of these studies were conducted in early learning environments, so more research is needed to test whether similar effects can be achieved when used at home.

Recommendation 1

Funders and researchers focused on the early years need to build an evidence base for less costly interventions that can increase access to supports that target children’s social, emotional, and cognitive development.

Recommendation 2

Existing models of parenting support need to be adapted to take advantage of peer groups and increase access through digital channels.

Recommendation 3

Government, local early childhood service providers and family networks should explore the possibilities of digital tools, including mobile phone applications, that children can use directly at home to develop their literacy and numeracy skills.

Pa Louise Bazalgette, Deputy Director of Nesta

Read it Company for trainingpress release here.

Learning for parents, children and adults: Family learning policy in the 2020s

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