This report evaluates the impact of Small Talk in Peterborough and Swindon in 2019.
Small Talk, a National Literacy Trust project funded by the Department for Education, aims to close the language gap that sees children from the most disadvantaged communities starting school with a vocabulary up to 19 months behind their more affluent peers.
Small Talk is a behaviour change campaign that encourages parents in seven local areas – including Peterborough and Swindon – to turn everyday activities, like having breakfast and visiting the supermarket, into opportunities to build their child’s language and literacy skills. Support for parents is provided through a Small Talk website, which includes simple videos, tips and information to help parents chat, play and read with their child, and a series of Small Talk public events, in which trained volunteers from local businesses and early years’ professionals demonstrate short, simple and fun activities parents can do at home.
Small Talk ran in Peterborough and Swindon between January and December 2019.
Key findings of the evaluation are:
- There is a clear need for Small Talk in Peterborough and Swindon: our findings showed that fewer parents in these areas engage regularly in positive home learning behaviours, such as chatting, playing and reading, compared with parents nationally. For example, parents in Peterborough and Swindon were significantly less likely to chat to their child at least once a day (65% vs 90%), twice less likely to play with their child at least once a day (48% vs 76%), and less likely to read to their child at least once a day (58% vs 66%).
- Small Talk is already having an impact in Peterborough and Swindon: parents who had been exposed to Small Talk campaign messages were more likely to engage in some of the positive home learning behaviours on a daily basis compared with those who couldn’t remember the campaign. 69% of parents who had visited the website read to their child at least once a day compared with 55% of parents who hadn’t visited the website, while 72% of parents who had taken part in a Small Talk event had read to their child at least once a day compared with 56% of parents who hadn’t taken part.
- Many parents are unaware of the benefits of interacting with their children at a very early age. Parents in Peterborough and Swindon with children under the age of two were less likely to engage daily in positive home learning activities than parents with older children.
- Parents in Peterborough and Swindon who were in a household with no adult in full-time employment were almost half as likely to have played with their child (52% vs 27%), or sung songs or shared poems or nursery rhymes (48% vs 25%) daily in the past week compared with parents in households where an adult was in employment.