Parental engagement programme has mixed impacts in early education

An evaluation of the Education Endowment Foundation’s trial of Families and Schools Together (FAST), delivered by Save the Children, did not appear to make a difference to children’s achievement, but was found to be an effective mechanism for engaging parents in their children’s early education. FAST was also shown to have a positive impact on children’s social and behavioural outcomes across the whole year group and not just for the children who participated in the programme.

FAST is a parental engagement programme that aims to support parenting and enhance links between families, schools and the community. Parents and their children attend eight weekly two-and-a-half-hour group sessions delivered after school by accredited FAST trainers.

The school-level randomised trial measured the impact of FAST for the whole year group on Key Stage 1 (KS1) reading and arithmetic achievement, and children’s behavioural and pro-social outcomes (measured using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire). One hundred and fifty eight schools took part in the trial, with a total of 7,027 pupils across the Year 1 cohort in these schools, and 632 pupils taking part in the eight-week programme.

The evaluation found no evidence that FAST had an effect on KS1 reading and arithmetic outcomes for the whole year group (effect size = +0.01). There was also no evidence that FAST had an impact on KS1 outcomes for the children whose families took part in the eight-week programme. However, FAST showed some promise on non-academic outcomes, with positive outcomes for the whole year group. Immediately after the eight-week programme, Year 1 pupils in the intervention schools had a higher average pro-social score and a lower average total difficulties score than pupils in comparison schools. However, these effects diminished by the end of Year 2.

Source: Families and Schools Together (FAST) evaluation report and executive summary (November 2018), Education Endowment Foundation

Tackling pupil mobility

A new article published in the American Educational Research Journal describes a trial to test whether pupils’ mobility (changing schools) in early elementary school was reduced by an intervention called Families and Schools Together (FAST). FAST is an intensive eight-week multi-family afterschool programme designed to empower parents, promote child resilience, and improve trust and shared expectations within and between families and among parents and school staff. The intervention has been successfully replicated and implemented across diverse settings around the world.

The trial was a cluster-randomised field experiment which took place in 52 predominantly Hispanic elementary schools in San Antonio, Texas, and Phoenix, Arizona. Half the schools were selected to receive the intervention and half were selected to continue with business as usual. The results showed that FAST failed to reduce mobility overall but substantially reduced the mobility of Black pupils, who were especially likely to change schools. The authors suggest that improved relationships among families may help to explain this finding.

A forthcoming issue of Better: Evidence-based Education has “parents and schools” as its theme.

Source: Reducing School Mobility: A Randomized Trial of a Relationship-Building Intervention (2013), American Educational Research Journal, 50(6).