Randomised Controlled Trial Evaluation of Families Connect

Pippa Lord, Connie Rennie, Robert Smith, Aideen Gildea, Sarah Tang, Guido Miani, Ben Styles and Christine Bradley

04 March 2021

Research report on the Save the Children UK website

This study evaluated Save the Children’s parental engagement programme ‘Families Connect’, to establish whether the programme had a positive impact on the children and parents involved, and to highlight the key aspects of the programme that supported implementation within the schools involved.

We conducted a randomised controlled trial (RCT) exploring a range of parent and child outcomes and an implementation analysis on key aspects of the programme including participants’ experiences.

This study was funded as part of the Nuffield Foundation’s early years’ evaluation grants to generate evidence on supporting children’s development in the early years of their learning. A team of researchers from NFER carried out the study, in collaboration with a research fellow from the Centre for Evidence and Social Innovation (CESI) at Queen’s University Belfast. The study was overseen by Save the Children UK’s evaluation team; and the programme was facilitated by Save the Children UK.

Key Findings

  • The evaluation found no evidence of impact of the programme on children’s receptive language or on numeracy outcomes immediately or six-months after programme delivery.
  • Additionally, no evident impact was found in children’s receptive vocabulary between children from different socio-economic backgrounds, or level of attendance in the programme.
  • However, both the quantitative and qualitative findings from the study indicate that Families Connect increases parental engagement in children’s learning, improves parental skills, and supports longer term improvements in children’s pro-social behaviour – all of which are valued in school settings and may have longer term benefits.

Our study had a particular focus on how schools can support parental engagement (both in their child’s learning and with the school), and on how parents’ can develop the home learning environment. These areas have particular resonance for schools in their support for children and families during the current Covid-19 pandemic and beyond. A key recommendation from the trial for the wider early years’ sector is to develop a better understanding of how to sustain changes within the home learning environment that will lead to measurable attainment outcomes for children, particular those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

For the Families Connect programme itself, key recommendations include: Whether further exploration is needed into how children’s communication development is embedded throughout the programme, and how that might be strengthened further in parent-child interactions, also whether a longer programme might be beneficial.

Sponsor Details

Queen's University Belfast and Save the Children UK