Active Families

Funded by The National Lottery, the Sport England Families Fund project has enabled PEN to develop a resource for school staff to support families to become more active. 

Through a series of fun after-school activity sessions, families of all abilities receive equipment packs to take home and use together. A series of home activity sheets and challenges encourage children and parents to increase their regular daily activity levels. Achievement is recognised through celebration and recognition of the benefits of being more active.  

In development, this project has been aimed primarily at families from low socio-economic groups (defined by Sport England as parents whose highest qualification is GCSE, low paid workers or those on benefits). But as a stepping stone into activity for families who find being active together difficult, it is suitable for families from all backgrounds.

The pandemic severely hampered our planned delivery of this pilot project, but we continue to work with schools to measure impact and have seen the following benefits:

  • Improved health and wellbeing of families
  • Improved fitness and readiness to learn in children
  • Increased skills of parent volunteers to support other families and the school
  • Increased parental involvement and parental engagement in physical literacy
  • Increased family cohesion and parenting skills
  • Improved community cohesion and strengthened links between schools and their communities
  • Adoption of a long-term sustainable model to enable families to get more active together in a fun and accessible way
  • An increase in positive networks for families and reduced isolation.
Read the research report

Engaging Parents Effectively

One of six projects funded as part of a £1m parental engagement fund from the Sutton Trust and Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. This work looked at whether training early years staff to engage with parents through interactive workshops might lead to positive change in parental home activities that support children’s learning. 

The fund complemented the work of the Education Endowment Foundation and aimed to develop evidence on approaches that could be scaled up and inform best practice for the sector. Oxford University led the evaluation of the randomised control trial. You can read more about the RCT here.

As part of the project, PEN trained staff from 58 schools to work more effectively with parents (particularly disadvantaged families) to help them support their child’s learning. The project looked at how high-quality resources and support from school staff helped parents improve children’s outcomes.

The staff supported parents to help their child develop a range of skills from helping establish sleep routines and developing their language to enjoying helping them learn maths and literacy skills through creative and fun activities. The project also enabled parents to build relationships with staff and each other.

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 had two parts:

The Transition Project (Mouse Club) supported parents to get their child ready for nursery or reception. Children were given a toy mouse who needed their help to get ready for school. Workshops, tip sheets, and ‘Mouse’ home activities enabled parents to support their child’s development better. Schools that trialled the transition project 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 helped parents support their child’s learning once in nursery or reception. This included the use of PEN numeracy and literacy resources. PEN delivered training to nursery and reception staff for both parts of the project.

Our learning from the Transition Project and the Home Learning Project has informed the current PEN Mouse Club Project. Within our Mouse Club Hub, we continue to review the project with school staff to ensure materials are up to date and work well in our post-pandemic world.

Read the research report