An innovative new app which aims to raise the attainment of disadvantaged 2 – 5 year olds by offering parents a bank of games to play with their child will be developed as part of a new £1m parental engagement fund from the Sutton Trust and Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, it was announced today.

By sending parents ideas of games to play each week as well as a providing a virtual support network and SMS service, the app will utilise new technologies to reach parents and help them support their child’s learning and development.

EasyPeasy is one of six projects to have won long-term backing through the new fund. The charities’ investment will support the growth, increased effectiveness and impact measurement of the initiatives, all of which are designed to boost learning for disadvantaged 2 – 6 year olds.

Previous research by the Sutton Trust found there to be 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 has shown that effective parental engagement can boost learning for disadvantaged children.

Recognising that involving parents in their children’s learning is one of the most effective ways to increase outcomes, this £1m fund represents a significant investment in reducing the early years attainment gap.

Currently, the government funds 15 hours of early years education and care for 40% of the most economically disadvantaged two-year olds, identifying high-quality early years education as a contributing factor to later academic success. One of the projects supported by the fund, Peep into Pre-school, will address the low take-up of the offer through home visits and events. Through outreach and an offer of ongoing support, they will ensure that the most vulnerable parents take up the offer and support their children to get the most out of a high-quality early years education.

The additional four projects supported by the £1m fund are:

  • Stories for You and Yours, an 11-week programme to encourage shared reading and to improve literacy. Originally developed for women leaving prison, the term-long project includes a weekly ‘Magical Story time’ to encourage parents to share stories, rhymes and songs with their children. This is complemented by a short course for parents only which helps them to feel confident in selecting appropriate books and reading aloud to their child.
  • REAL, a project to provide practitioners with training to help parents undertake home learning activities to raise early achievement in literacy.
  • Grow our Own, a programme including a 4-week child development course designed to help parents become more aware of the importance of being involved in their children’s learning at all stages of life.
  • Engaging Parents Effectively, a training programme for staff in schools so they are supported to deliver a suite of parental engagement workshops.

Sir Peter Lampl, Chairman of the Sutton Trust and of the Education Endowment Foundation, said:

“We know that the attainment gap between the richest and the poorest pupils begins before they’ve even started school. Tackling this disparity early on is critical to breaking the cycle of disadvantage and improving social mobility. We will support these six promising interventions to develop their delivery and increase their impact.”

Caroline Mason, Chief Executive of Esmée Fairbairn Foundation said:

“Parental involvement is key to successful outcomes for children.  Parents worry for and care very much about the future of their children wherever they come from or whatever their circumstances.  The Parental Engagement Fund is targeted at providing parenting support and tools to reduce the attainment gap between the richest and poorest families in the UK.  This is central to our mission as a Foundation and we are delighted to be supporting these exciting organisations.”


  1. The Sutton Trust is a foundation set up in 1997, dedicated to improving social mobility through education. It has published over 150 research studies and funded and evaluated programmes that have helped hundreds of thousands of young people of all ages, from early years through to access to the professions.
  2. Esmée Fairbairn Foundation aims to improve the quality of life for people and communities throughout the UK both now and in the future. We do this by funding the charitable work of organisations with the ideas and ability to achieve positive change.  The Foundation is one of the largest independent grant-makers in the UK.  We make grants of £30 – £35 million annually towards a wide range of work within the arts, education and learning, the environment and social change. We also operate a £26 million Finance Fund which invests in organisations that aim to deliver both a financial return and a social benefit.
  3. The Education Endowment Foundation is a charity set up in 2011 by the Sutton Trust as lead foundation in partnership with Impetus Trust, with a Department for Education grant of £125m. It is dedicated to breaking the link between family income and educational achievement. Since its launch the EEF has awarded £53 million to 94 projects working with over 600,000 pupils in over 4,800 schools across England. The Early Years Toolkit is an accessible summary of educational research developed by the EEF and a team of academics at Durham University led by Professor Steve Higgins. The Toolkit currently covers 12 topics and summarises research from over 1,600 studies.  The Toolkit is a live resource which is regularly updated as new findings are published.
  4. Sutton Trust Social Mobility Report in 2012 found a 19 month gap in school readiness between the richest and poorest four and five year olds in the UK.
  5. Sound Foundations, a report by Oxford University academics for the Sutton Trust, highlighted the importance of parental engagement during the early years on positive child outcomes.
  6. The six projects and their organisations are:
EasyPeasy Character Counts Nationwide
Peep into Pre-school Peeple Oxford
REAL Early Childhood Unit (part of the National Children’s Bureau) Sheffield / Oldham
Stories for You and Yours The Reader Organisation Sefton, Merseyside
Grow our Own Howgill Family Centre Cumbria
Engaging Parents Effectively Parental Engagement Network (PEN) Greater Manchester, North & South Wales, Hull, Birmingham, Surrey and Devon


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