Blog: Narrowing the gap in children’s school readiness

Published: 5 Apr 2018

Author: Pamela Park
Blog: Narrowing the gap in children’s school readiness

Almost half of all children from disadvantaged backgrounds do not reach their expected level of development when they start school,* by which time the gap between disadvantaged children and their peers can be as large as 15 months.** This school readiness ‘gap’ can have lasting consequences, leaving children who have started school behind their peers continuing to lag behind them throughout their education, right through to GSCE and A level attainment.

At Family Lives, the charity at which I am Deputy Chief Executive, we are committed to levelling the playing field so that all children can make the most of their time in school and fulfil their potential.

Last year, I travelled to the USA and Ireland as part of my Churchill Fellowship to learn how the Parent Child Home Programme (PCHP) is reducing the school readiness gap between low income children and their better off peers. Using toys and books to model positive play, along with communication and interaction over the course of 92 home visits, families are transformed by this programme. Parents and children all grow in confidence, parent-child interaction increases and children’s literacy improves dramatically.

Below: Pamela (bottom left) with the PCHP team in Florida

Pamela with Florida PCHP team

Family Lives is delighted to be introducing the programme to England during 2018, having secured a grant from Nesta and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to pilot PCHP in three areas in England: Newcastle, Ealing and Nottingham. Based on learning from my Fellowship travels, we will be adapting the delivery cycle and supervision structures to fit the UK context, as well as introducing volunteer home visitors.

We have recruited coordinators for the project and given them training from the team at the PCHP USA National Centre, who I worked with during my Fellowship travels. We are now recruiting volunteers and looking for families to participate in our three pilot areas. 

We are very excited to be bringing the joy of books and toys to families in these areas, ensuring that children are surrounded by a positive home learning environment – and that they are ready to thrive when they start nursery or school.

We hope to deliver PCHP in other areas in the future. In addition, we will become a National Training Centre toward the end of 2018/2019, so that we can train and license other organisations to deliver PCHP to families in their communities.

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* Department for Education, Early years foundation stage profile results: 2016 to 2017

** Teach First, Social mobility and the seemingly unbreakable glass ceiling, 2017