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 to book a place at a briefing.

Alternatively you can just fill in and return the application form by Friday 13th July to

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.

Oxford University‘s positive research findings on Engaging Parents Effectively

Click here to find out more about the research, training and resources available.

Download the report

Visit the Sutton Trust website

Report by Oxford University

  • This report, authored by Fiona Jelley and Kathy Sylva from the University of Oxford, looks at whether engaging the parents of disadvantaged children in the early years  can impact on the home learning environment, parental support for learning and children’s attainment.
  • It highlights the findings  of a small-scale randomised control trial where school staff were trained to engage parents in a Home Learning Project developed by the Parental Engagement Network (a not-for-profit social enterprise) involving workshops and activities to do at home.
  • PEN was one of 5 organisations supported through the Parental Engagement Fund which was set up by the Sutton Trust working in partnership with the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation.
  • It found that the programme did positively influence parental behaviour at home, that it developed the skills and confidence of staff to engage parents and that it was cost effective, easily embedded within schools and highly scalable.
  • The analyses showed a significant effect of the intervention on the child’s Home Learning Environment score. There was also a trend (p=.056) towards a difference between intervention and control groups on the Family Support subscale from the BESSI. Taken together, the significant impact on Home Learning Environment scores and the near significant trend on the Family Support subscale suggest that the PEN programme positively influenced parental behaviours at home.
  • Experience from previous trials has shown that recruiting and retaining parents can be challenging, and this intervention has been notably successful in recruiting 84 families in the intervention schools and retaining 72 throughout the project (85% families). The trial prioritised disadvantaged, mostly pupil premium eligible families that the settings had not previously been successful in engaging. Schools have also reported that this initial engagement has led to continued involvement by these families in the school – one school reported that engagement in reception workshops had increased by 70%.
  • Almost all the staff (94%) said they had gained confidence and skills in working with parents through the training and implementing the project.
  • Most schools reported that they thought the intervention had impacted on children’s progress in terms of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)profile outcomes. At Claremont Primary School 70% of the targeted children involved in the project made accelerated progress (3+ levels) in teacher-assessed reading compared with 45% of the whole nursery year group, and 70% of the children involved in the project made accelerated progress in speaking compared with 48% of the year group as a whole.
  • The sustainable nature of the intervention has already been demonstrated by the settings who have been involved in the trial deciding to continue with the project in subsequent years. Seven out of the nine intervention schools have continued to use some or all of the resources and strategies in the year following the project.
  • The PEN model involves training setting staff to deliver directly to parents, which enables the programme to become incorporated into the setting’s practice by the staff rather than relying on external professionals. On a practical level, this makes the intervention cost effective (see costs in the report), easily embedded within schools, and highly scalable.
  • The results from this trial show some promise of an affordable and easy-to-embed training programme for teachers and school staff to boost the supportive home environment of disadvantaged families.

Sarah Rudd, Headteacher at Newall Green Primary School said, “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”.

 “Doing this work for many years –the new research publication on the Sutton Trust website  feels like a real  breakthrough. It  showed  that it  really is worthwhile reaching out to the parents who don’t normally get engaged and if supported and encouraged that they will do  more at home, helping their children to thrive” – Emma Beresford, Director PEN.

The training and resources to do the project are now available to other schools via

After school family learning events at Acacias Primary School

Becky Riley from Acacias Primary School talked about their termly whole school family learning events at the PEN network meeting on Nov 1st.

  • They do three parent learning events across the year; one per term. They are held after school, during staff meeting time (3.45 – 4.45).
    Each event has a theme, which links in with a themed week across school.
  • At the event, they run a variety of activities (generally around twelve), each manned by two or three staff. The children go around the activities, with their parents/carers, completing as many as they feel they can.
  • For each activity they complete, they get a stamp on a record card. Any child who gets 6 stamps or more receives a certificate and a prize.
  • A ‘working party’ of staff work together on thinking up the activities for the event, but it is up to individual staff to resource and set up the activity they are manning.
  • Example of event: Celebrating Cultures. We celebrated some of the cultures represented in our community through a variety of activities. The activities that we held were; Zumba, mask making, Chinese lettering, Arabic lettering, Sari tying, using chopsticks, making Mango Lassi and food tasting (with foods from around the world). There was music in each room linked to the culture that was being celebrated. The stickers, certificates and prizes were all linked to the theme of celebrating cultures.
  • Example of event: Brilliant Britain. We looked at what makes Britain brilliant, incorporating the British values that are taught in school. The activities that we held were; voting for our favourite things, creating crowns, making our own Banksy art work, food tasting (scones and cucumber sandwiches), biscuit decorating, making poppies, creating a Union Jack from British things, mapping Britain, quizzes and cricket (indoor due to weather – rain couldn’t stop our play!).
  • During the week around the Parent Learning Event we also had local boxer, Stacey Copeland, come in to school to talk to the children. We also had a red, white and blue day on the Wednesday, where children dressed in the colours of the Union Jack.

Becky Riley the organiser said that “the events create a great atmosphere and sense of community – with parents, children and staff working together”.

Comments from parents included:

It was very interactive, engaging and fun.
It was good to meet the staff.
It was great to do something in school together with the kids.