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‘EasyPeasy’ parenting app ‘significantly’ improves school readiness skills through games and tips

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An app that sends game ideas and tips on child development to mums and dads has been found to improve children’s concentration and their willingness to complete difficult tasks, according to the results of a randomised controlled trial carried out by the University of Oxford’s Department of Education and published by the Sutton Trust today.

The trial tested EasyPeasy, an app for parents and carers of 2-6 year old children that encourages positive play and interaction with children at home.

Parents taking part in the trial used the app for 18 weeks and reported improvements in their children’s ‘cognitive self-regulation’. Examples of this include persisting to complete difficult tasks, making decisions independently, and working things out for themselves – sometimes described as ‘character’. These capabilities strongly underpin children’s ability to learn and succeed at school.

The parents taking part in the trial also felt better able to stick to rules and set boundaries. Both of these findings were statistically significant.

Previous research commissioned by the Sutton Trust found a 19 month gap in development between the richest and poorest children at five, a strong predictor of future outcomes in education, health, wealth, and wellbeing. There is evidence that engaged parents and a vibrant home learning environment are major influences on children’s development, yet little is known about how to better support families who are struggling to provide this. These results are an important step towards understanding effective ways for parents to support their child’s early learning at home, and help them get ready for school.

144 families took part in the trial of EasyPeasy, through a partnership with Bournemouth borough council, EasyPeasy, the Sutton Trust, the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and the University of Oxford. Parents received EasyPeasy via children’s centres in the Bournemouth area. The EasyPeasy app provided data analytics on parent engagement to the children’s centres via a digital dashboard, helping practitioners to encourage less engaged parents to participate.

EasyPeasy is one of six organisations to have been awarded funding as part of the Sutton Trust and Esmée Fairbairn Foundation’s £1m parental engagement fund, designed to boost learning for disadvantaged 2 – 6 year olds. This trial forms part of the charities’ investment to support the growth, increased effectiveness and impact measurement of the initiatives.

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

“But it can be difficult to get parents involved in their child’s learning. Today’s results show the potential for EasyPeasy – an inexpensive app for parents and carers of 2-6 year olds that encourages positive play and interaction with children at home  – to be an effective way of improving parental engagement.”

Jen Lexmond, Founder & CEO of EasyPeasy, said:

“Our mission at EasyPeasy is to make sure every child has the foundational skills they need to succeed at school, and beyond.

“We’ve designed EasyPeasy to bring parents and children together to learn through play, and build character. Working together with the University of Oxford has been crucial in helping us test the impact of this approach, and we’re delighted with the promising results.”

Professor Kathy Sylva, Professor of Educational Psychology, University of Oxford said:

“Although there are many parenting programmes, there is still limited evidence that they are effective at improving children’s learning or their capacity to make a strong start at school. These promising results on EasyPeasy stem from a rigorous trial and so build optimism that we can make a difference in the lives of young children through supporting their parents.”

Readers can join a waiting list to access EasyPeasy at www.easypeasyapp.com

NOTES TO EDITORS

  1. The Sutton Trust is a foundation set up in 1997, dedicated to improving social mobility through education. It has published over 170 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 Foundationaims 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. EasyPeasy was prototyped in 2014 through a ‘challenge prize’ from Guys’ & St Thomas’s Charity and the Design Council. The ‘Knee High Challenge’ was designed to generate ideas to support the health and wellbeing of children from birth to five and had a local focus on the London boroughs of Southwark and Lambeth. There was a strong focus on developing ideas locally, but that would have the potential to scale nationally or internationally.
  4. Jen Lexmond is Founder and CEO of EasyPeasy. She has published widely and advised Parliament on the ways that early development affect children’s life chances.
  5. Sutton Trust Social Mobility Reportin 2012 found a 19 month gap in school readiness between the richest and poorest four and five year olds in the UK.
  6. Sound Foundations, a report by University of Oxford academics for the Sutton Trust, highlighted the importance of parental engagement during the early years on positive child outcomes.
  7. EasyPeasy is one of six organisations being supported by the Sutton Trust and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation’s £1m Parental Engagement Fund. The aim of the fund is to boost learning for disadvantaged young children through the development of more effective parental engagement. The organisations have been paired with a team from the University of Oxford who have been acting as an independent evaluator and “critical friend”, guiding the organisations in their use of evaluation to improve practice as well as to demonstrate impact. In addition, the hope is to improve the sustainability of effective interventions and to identify the active ingredients to share with the sector.