Taking part in our research

Families and Schools Together programme

Project code: FAST

What is the FAST programme?

The Families and Schools Together programme (FAST) is a parental engagement programme that has been run in a number of countries over the last 25 years. It aims to support parenting, improve children’s behaviour, and enhance links between families, school and the community. Parents and their children attend eight weekly 2.5-hour group sessions, delivered by local partners who are trained by accredited FAST trainers. Save the Children UK (SCUK) delivers FAST in UK primary schools, via a license agreement held by Middlesex University and the FAST programme team in the USA.

What are the evaluation aims?

Previous evaluations show that FAST supports children’s behaviour and parents’ confidence. However, we do not know if it might improve children’s learning in school. This study aims to evaluate the impact of FAST on children’s learning, through a randomised controlled trial. Schools will be randomly allocated to take part in the FAST programme or to a control group. The trial will look at outcomes on children’s attainment (as measured by end of Key Stage 1 tests) and children’s social, emotional and behavioural outcomes (as measured by the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ).

Who is conducting the evaluation?

The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) and partners at the Centre for Child and Family Research at Loughborough University (CCFR) are carrying out the independent evaluation. The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) has commissioned and funded the evaluation.

What will the research involve for all schools?

All schools will provide data to NFER including: a list of children in Year 1 so that NFER can access their KS1 results in 2017 (unless parents have said they do not want their child’s KS1 data included); and a set of teacher-completed SDQs for Y1 children with no names on, at the beginning, middle and end of the trial. All schools will also complete a short baseline and end-point proforma about any other family or parenting support programmes they are involved with.

What will happen with schools in the control group?

Schools in the control group won’t receive the FAST programme. They will be asked to continue as usual delivering any other programmes they would normally run. Control schools will need to take part in the research activities for all schools described above.

What will the intervention involve?

Schools in the intervention group will take part in the FAST programme. Key staff will attend FAST training on how to deliver the programme. They will then invite families with Year 1 children to take part in the FAST programme. The local FAST team will then run the programme on a weekly basis as a twilight session (e.g. 3.30-6pm) one night a week for eight weeks. Parents may then continue to meet on a monthly basis for two years following the initial eight-week programme. This aspect is called FASTworks.

What other data will be collected in intervention schools?

Schools in the intervention group will need to complete a family attendance register at the FAST sessions. A local lead will help facilitate this (e.g. the local FAST trainer, Programmes Manager, or a local partner). A local partner or parent will need to volunteer to continue to complete an activity register for FASTworks. A sample of headteachers/senior leaders will be asked to take part in a post-delivery telephone interview with a member of the research team. A smaller number of schools will be invited to take part in case studies. This may involve an observation of a FAST session, a case study visit to interview staff and parents to find out their views, and follow-up telephone interviews with staff and parents.

What’s the overall timetable?

The trial will be run in three termly delivery blocks – Autumn 2015, Spring 2016 and Summer 2016. The baseline and mid-point data collection will take place either side of these delivery blocks. The end-point data collection will happen in Summer term 2017.

How will schools benefit from taking part?

Schools allocated to the intervention group will take part in the FAST programme, which aims to improve children’s attainment and behaviour and enhance links between families, school and the community. Schools in the control group will receive £500 upon baseline SDQ completion and a further £1000 for completion of follow-up SDQs.

Do schools have to take part?

No, schools only have to take part in the trial if they wish to do so. Parents can opt out of the school providing their child’s data to NFER. For schools allocated to FAST, parents can then choose to opt in to take part in the FAST programme and any trial evaluation activity.

How will NFER use and protect the data collected?

The information collected during the trial will be held in accordance with the Data Protection Act, and will be treated in the strictest confidence by the NFER and CCFR. All of the quantitative data collected by NFER and CCFR in this evaluation will be shared with the DfE, the Fischer Family Trust (FFT) (the organisation appointed to manage EEF’s data archive) and stored in the EEF data archive and the UK Data Archive for research purposes. No school or child will be named in any report arising from this work.

How will the findings be used?

The overall findings from this research will be included in a publicly available report used to influence practice nationally.

Who can I contact for more information?

Pippa Lord, the Project Leader at NFER, is very happy to answer any questions you might have. Please contact her on 01904 567633 p.lord@nfer.ac.uk