Our Skills is a family literacy programme which aims to increase the educational attainment and life chances of children in Reception or Year 1 who have a social worker or who have had one in the last six years. The project is an adaptation of Family Skills, a group-based programme delivered in schools for families with English as an additional language. Improving the engagement of parents/carers and home learning environments may improve the educational outcomes for children who are disadvantaged, including children with a social worker. Some educational interventions delivered by the foster carer within the home setting have been shown to have positive educational outcomes. Likewise, focussing on the home learning environment may improve the educational outcomes for children who have had a social worker but are not in care.
The programme is designed for use in mainstream schools with children working towards the national curriculum in Reception and Year 1 classes. Eligible children typically will be identified as those who have in the past 6 years been classified as Children in Need (CiN), been subject to a Child Protection Plan (CP), and/or classified as ‘Children Looked After’ or ‘Looked After Children’ (CLA/LAC).
This pilot study aims to test the feasibility of Our Skills online to the intended population; including whether the content and approaches are acceptable and appropriate to parents/carers, whether it has evidence of promise, and whether it is ready for trial.
It will provide early insight into the perceived impact of Our Skills for parent/carers’ attitudes and confidence, family literacy practices, children’s learning, and relationships between parents/carers and schools. The project was initially planned as a randomised controlled trial (RCT) with trial delivery intended to be delivered in-person. However, the impact of Covid-19 meant that the project washad to be re-designed to overcome the challenges of the pandemic. Our Skills will now be evaluated as a pilot study with all delivery taking place online.
The programme will be evaluated using programme data, delivery records and observation of delivery, a survey of changes in home literacy environments, focus groups with the programme developers and semi-structured interviews with parents/carers, tutors, delivery partner managers, and school and Local Authority representatives.
This project builds on a report WWCSC released in February 2020 which revisited 63 trials funded by the Education Endowment Foundation to determine what works in education for children who have had social workers. Family Skills was one of the ten interventions that the research identified as showing signs of potential for children’s social care (CSC) and which warranted further research.
The Our Skills programme will be delivered via 10 x 2-2.5 hour online weekly sessions that will take place between March and May 2021.
The Our Skills course includes:
· Reading strategies and phonics
· Home literacy practices and oral traditions – including storytelling, songs, rhymes and, where appropriate, making the most of bilingualism.
· Families learning together and learning through play
· Education approaches and the culture of schools
Findings from the pilot will be published in a report at the end of 2021.