This report explores changes for children, families and practitioners as a result of taking part in our Early Words Together for London programme over the three years of delivery, 2019-2022.
About Early Words Together
Our early years programme, Early Words Together, has been proven to improve the home learning environment (HLE) of disadvantaged children by equipping parents and carers with the skills and confidence needed to support their child’s early literacy, communication and language development. Early Words Together has been designed with adaptions to support children at three different stages of their development: ages 2, 3 and 4-5 years. Parents learn simple daily activities such as shared reading, songs, mark-making and talk that will help them enrich their HLE for their children. Sessions are based around the seven activities known to have impact on educational attainment.
As part of the Mercers’ Company Early Years Special Initiative, Early Words Together for London involved collaboration with three boroughs with high literacy vulnerability to identify and engage specific settings in target wards and a selected cohort of children (i.e. two-year-olds, three-year-olds or four-year-olds) in an appropriate version of the programme.
In order to explore the changes for children, families and practitioners as a result of taking part in the programme, this report uses data from parents and practitioners collected as part of the programme evaluation over the three years of delivery. Overall, the findings from the evaluation of the programme are very positive despite the ongoing challenges in delivery brought on by the pandemic. Some of the key findings include:
Early Words Together has been successful in supporting children’s engagement with stories, songs and mark making:
- For example, 3 in 4 (74.1%) parents said that after taking part, their child enjoyed singing songs and rhymes more than before, while 7 in 10 (69.9%) felt that their child listened or paid attention to stories more than before. 3 in 5 parents also reported that their child asked to look at stories and books at home more than before (62.0%), enjoyed mark-making and drawing more than before (61.3%), and enjoyed sharing books (59.7%)
We also see positive changes for their parents and for families as a whole:
- For example, 3 in 4 (75.5%) parents said they understood the importance of talking to their child more than before, while 3 in 4 (74.8%) said they talked to their child more about something the child is interested in. 3 in 5 (62.0%) felt more confident to sing songs with their child and nearly 3 in 5 (58.0%) felt more confident to share books with their child.
- These changes in parents’ knowledge and confidence are also reflected in how they engage in activities with their child. Nearly 3 in 4 parents reported they sang songs with their child more than before (73.0%) and that they chatted together with their child (72.1%) more than before, while 3 in 5 shared stories more than before (59.1%).
The programme was also successful in supporting practitioners with their knowledge and confidence, as well as in improving the practice in the settings that participated in the programme:
- For example, more than 9 in 10 practitioners reported feeling increasingly confident to engage with parents (93.5%) and increasingly skilled to do so (90.3%) after taking part.
- Similarly, the findings show that the percentage of practitioners who give advice to parents about their home learning environments weekly increased by 59%, from 42.4% before the programme to 67.6% after the programme, and the number of practitioners who encourage parents weekly to engage in playing with their child increased by 67%, from 52.9%% to 88.3%.