The Sutton Trust working in partnership with Esmée Fairbairn Foundation established the Parental Engagement Fund (PEF) building on the evidence that engaging parents in their children’s learning can have a positive impact on their attainment. The aim of the fund is to increase attainment for disadvantaged children in the early years through the development of more effective parental engagement.
As part of the PEF project, EasyPeasy has been trialled in two authorities: Bournemouth and Newham. The two trials were designed differently: Bournemouth was an individual-level randomised controlled trial (RCT) and Newham involved whole children’s centres being allocated to different trial groups. This report focuses on the Newham trial.
- This study found that families in the intervention group (those with access to EasyPeasy) had significantly higher scores than the comparison group on two parent-reported outcomes: children’s cognitive self-regulation and parents’ sense of control.
- First, these results suggest a positive effect of EasyPeasy on children’s cognitive self-regulation, as reported by their parents. This measure includes the ability to ‘work things out for oneself’, ‘persist in completing difficult tasks’ and ‘make decisions independently’. Cognitive self-regulation, including persistence and concentration, is agreed to be an important pre-requisite of children’s ‘school readiness’.
- Second, a promising effect of the EasyPeasy app was observed for parental sense of control. Parents, for example, reported feeling more ‘in control’ as a parent and had a greater sense of being able to ‘get their child to behave well’ and ‘respond to boundaries’. They also reported being able to ‘stay calm when facing difficulties’.
- These results must be interpreted with caution. The analyses have not accounted in a sophisticated way for the clustered nature of the data, i.e., children and parents were not randomly assigned within each centre; instead, centres were randomly assigned to intervention or comparison group. Although analysis after completion of the trial showed negligible centre effects, analysis at individual level means that important information about the nesting in the data has not been taken into account. For this reason, the positive findings for the intervention group could be said to be promising at this stage.
- These positive findings are buttressed by an earlier evaluation of EasyPeasy carried out in Bournemouth which also showed significant positive benefits for the intervention group compared with the control group on children’s cognitive self-regulation, as well as parenting self-efficacy. Although trialled in two very different authorities using slightly different research designs, the fact that the two studies had similar results reinforces the implication that EasyPeasy can boost children’s cognitive development through supporting play at home with their parents.