About the Project

PEN developed exciting new parental engagement strategies and resources as part of a national research project. The PEN project is one of six projects funded as part of a £1m parental engagement fund from the Sutton Trust and Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

The fund complements the work of the Education Endowment Foundation and aims to develop evidence on approaches that can be scaled up and inform best practice for the sector. Oxford University led the evaluation of the randomised control trial.

As part of the project, PEN trained school staff from 58 schools to work more effectively with parents (particularly disadvantaged families) to help them support their child’s learning. The project looked at how high-quality resources and support from school staff helped parents to improve children’s outcomes.


We are very grateful to the support of the following individuals in developing this work:

Ruth Levy (EY2P), Lisa Taylor (Martenscroft Nursery Schools and Children’s Centre), Erica Splawnyk, Janet Davies (Associate and trainer), Jo Bricher (designer), Helen Beswick (administrator) , Janet Mannion (Playclub supplier)

Parents were supported to help their child to develop a range of skills from helping to establish sleep routines and developing their language, to enjoying helping them learn maths and literacy skills through creative and fun activities. The project also enabled parents to build relationships with staff and each other.

Research by the Sutton Trust found a 19-month gap in school readiness between the richest and the poorest children at age 5. At the same time, a new Early Years Toolkit from the Education Endowment Foundation showed that effective parental engagement can boost learning for disadvantaged children.

The PEN project had two parts:

the Transition Project (Mouse Club), which supported parents to get their child ready for nursery or reception. Children were given a toy mouse which needed their help to get ready for school. Workshops, tip sheets and ‘Mouse’ home activities enabled parents to better support their child’s development. Schools that trialled the transition project reported transformed relationships with parents, greater openness and trust, children settling in better, and improved sleeping, eating, behaviour and language development.

The Home Learning Project, which helped parents to support their child’s learning once in nursery or reception. This included PEN numeracy and literacy resources.

Both parts of the project were supported with training for nursery and reception staff.

I have been very impressed by the uptake and the very positive outcomes from the project. This is exactly what we need – practical fun ways to engage parents in learning.

Sarah Rudd, Headteacher at Newall Green Primary School