Moray House School of Education and Sport

Parental engagement – equity and equality

During the 2019-20 academic year, the Read, Write, Count (RWC) Group sought and was awarded funding from the Scottish Government’s Small Project Fund: Parental Engagement – Equity and Equality to support its work.

Project overview

The funding underpinned the RWC Group’s project to address inequalities by engaging with families who may not otherwise find it easy to engage with the Scottish Book Trust’s universal gifting Read, Write, Count resources or with the school. It specifically targeted families learning English, fathers, families with Looked After Children, and other families identified as likely to benefit from a focussed interaction.

Workshops for Primary 3 families

The funding from the Small Project Fund enabled the City of Edinburgh Council Lifelong Learning service to employ a Family Learning Professional, Barbara Middleton, to develop and deliver a series of workshops for Primary 3 families in a range of settings, and to contribute to the evaluation and dissemination of findings as well as professional learning opportunities. In 2020, the settings included three primary schools and two community-based settings for families with English as an Additional Language, including a community centre and a library. In 2021, the focus will be on a dads’ group and we  hope to include a group for kinship carers. 

Due to the pandemic, the work had to be pivoted online at short notice. Barbara created a 4 week programme titled ‘Help Your Child to Learn’ which uses short videos to support work with parents.

Preliminary Evaluation

A preliminary evaluation of the first year has been carried out. There are two parts to the evaluation that have been partially completed:

  1. Self-evaluation using the PACS Toolkit and HGIOS 2.5 Family Learning.
  2. Mixed-methods evaluation by Edinburgh University. This will draw on verbal and written feedback from parents and school staff, assessing impact using pre-and post-engagement questionnaires completed by participants (17 at least partially complete), and will include reflections from the project worker on lessons learnt. Ethical consent for interviews with parents has been granted, and parents have agreed to participate, but these are on hold until they can be safely conducted face to face.

Caution has to be exercised in analysis of any changes between pre and post interventions as this period overlapped with the start of lockdown when parents became responsible for home-schooling. Changes in reported frequency of activities (e.g. reading with child, or visits to the library) cannot be attributed to the intervention. Likewise, changes in measures of confidence are difficult to interpret as involvement in home-schooling is likely to have had a greater impact than the intervention. We anticipate that despite being unable to make statistically robust claims, the interview data will allow us to say something about the experiences of the participants and the way they made use of recorded and synchronous sessions. 

We can be more confident in the questions relating to engagement with the RWC materials which the lockdown would not necessarily have affected.

Increased confidence and engagement with the RWC materials

The largest reported change in all the measures was in confidence in using the materials in the RWC gifting bags with their children. The average increase was +2.25 (on a scale from 1 – ‘not very true of me’, to 10 – ‘very true of me’ on the statement “I feel I can take ideas from the RWC resources and use them at home with my children”).

Looking more closely at differences between native speakers (NS) and non-native speakers (NNS), all NS reporting a change (about half) reported a positive change, compared with NNS of whom half reported an increase and half a decrease. This needs to be explored further in interviews.

Ten parents responded ‘none’ to the pre-test question ‘How often in the last week have you used the RWC materials with your child?’, 5 said ‘once’ and one reported 2 – 3 times. After the intervention only one parent reported ‘none’ for this question, with over half reporting 2 - 3 or 4 – 6 times. The most common post-test response was ‘2-3 times’. Only one parent, a native Arabic speaker did not use the materials more after the intervention because of language difficulties. Again, there were some differences between NS and NNS, with NNS more likely to report more frequent use after the intervention (all but the one parent mentioned above reported 2- 3 times or more). This compared with half of the NS who reported using the materials once a week after the intervention.

Recommendations for boosting future engagement with the RWC gifting bags

The low base-line use of the materials suggests that for most parents receiving the book gifting bags is not sufficient to prompt them to use them, but that the interactive workshops were successful in nudging parents to making the shift to engaging with the materials. The workshops offered both suggested activities but also helped parents navigate the existing resources provided by SBT on their website. If this ‘nudge’ can be scaled up to reach more parents, our data suggests this will be effective in promoting parental engagement with the resources which SBT develop each year.

Informal feedback from teachers

While formal evaluation of the intervention with teachers was not planned, feedback was sought informally. School staff commented on the added value of the interactive sessions to support families to make the most of this existing resource. For example, the deputy headteacher of a participating school commented that the programme had been a great success in terms of engaging families, but she felt that the video materials alone (despite their quality and energy) would not have had the same effect, and that it was the interactive sessions that had made the difference. She described the partnership between the school and Lifelong Learning as very positive and something the school would like to continue if possible.

Other collaborative projects

Learn more about other collaborative projects led by the Moray House RWC Group: