PACT: Parents and Children Together project

Project overview

Parents and Children Together (PACT) is an early language teaching programme that aims to provide parents with strategies, resources and activities to support their child’s early language development at home.

Our project will test whether PACT helps to boost children’s early language and literacy skills.

Why is the project important?

Children’s language skills are really important for their later success in school. Supporting language development from an early age has the potential to make a difference to children’s later outcomes.

Parents are well-placed to support their child’s language development, particularly in the early years, but may not always feel able to do so.

This project will test the effectiveness of a parent delivered language teaching programme on children’s language skills.

How is the project funded?

The project is funded by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), a charity that supports research that aims to have a positive impact on children’s learning.

The EEF provide teachers and education professionals with summaries of research projects with the hope of improving education practice.

Who is involved in the project?

The research project is being conducted by The University of Manchester and Durham University.

Dr Kelly Burgoyne and Stephanie Hargreaves at The University of Manchester will be working closely with families and schools to run the project.

The project will be evaluated by the research team at Durham University. The PACT programme materials have been published by Book Trust.

We are working with 47 nursery schools and approximately 450 families in the Greater Manchester and Lancashire areas

What does the project involve?

The aim of this research project is to see whether a parent-delivered early language teaching programme (PACT) helps to boost pre-school children’s spoken language skills.

The teaching programme supports parents to use different strategies and activities to support language development in their own home. The programme will be evaluated using a randomised controlled trial (RCT).

Within each school, children and their parents have been randomly put into one of two groups.

One group was given the PACT language programme and was asked to work on the programme at home every weekday (five days a week) for about 20 minutes, for 30 weeks.

The other group was given a box of children’s storybooks at the end of nursery.


How do I get involved?

Thanks to everyone who has expressed interest in the project and shown their support.

You can visit our Twitter page for regular project updates: @PACTLanguage.

We have now completed recruitment for the current project.

If you are interested in being involved in any future trials, please register your interest by emailing either or

How can I find out more?

Visit the resources and most commonly asked questions section for more information on the project.

Download a copy of our timeline, where you can view changes to project plans due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Project background

This project builds on earlier work to test whether an early language teaching programme that is delivered by parents at home helps to improve children’s early language development.

The first PACT study (2015-2017) was funded by the Nuffield Foundation.

In this study, Kelly Burgoyne and her colleagues developed the language teaching programme and ran a study to look at the effect of the programme on pre-school children’s spoken language skills.

Background to the project
  • Recent research shows a link between parental involvement and educational outcomes – the more involved parents are with their child’s education the better the child does at school – and this is true across different ages and ethnic groups (Wilder, 2014).
  • Recent policy emphasises the need to involve parents in their children’s education with the view that this would improve children’s educational outcomes (Ofsted, 2014; Field, 2010; Tickell, 2011; DfE, 2018).
  • Can programmes which aim to help parents get more involved in their child’s learning improve children’s outcomes? The evidence to support whether these programmes actually work is still unclear (Huat See & Gorard, 2013).
  • A central learning target in the early years is language and communication. Spoken language skills prepare young children for starting school and play an important part in learning to read and write (Hulme et al., 2015; Duff et al., 2015).
  • Supporting spoken language development in the early years has great potential for improving children’s learning. Whilst there is evidence that early language teaching programmes can effectively support children’s language development when they are delivered by teaching staff in schools (Fricke et al., 2013;2017), we do not yet know whether parent-delivered language teaching is effective.
Who took part in the study?

208 children and their parents recruited through 22 children’s centres in Blackpool and Greater London (Bexley and Lambeth).

What did we ask them to do?
The children and parents were randomly put into one of two groups: The PACT language group received the language teaching programme whilst the other group (the Motor Skills group) were given a teaching programme which worked on early motor skills.

Both groups were asked to work on their teaching programme at home every weekday (five days a week) for about 20 minutes, over 30 weeks.

How did we test whether the programme worked?
The research team measured children’s motor and language skills before families started the programme and at the end, to see whether the programmes made a difference to children’s development.

Children were seen again six months after the programmes had finished to see whether there were any delayed effects

What did we find?
The results showed that the PACT language programme helped to boost children’s early language skills. This suggests that parents can effective deliver language teaching to their child at home. We now need bigger studies to see whether the programme works with other children and their families.

Meet the team

The University of Manchester

Dr Kelly Burgoyne

Kelly is a Lecturer in Language Disorders at The University of Manchester. Her research is focused on cognitive development, particularly the development of reading and language skills, and the nature and causes of children’s learning difficulties.

Kelly has particular experience in the development and evaluation of interventions to support children’s reading and language development.

Recent projects include a large-scale longitudinal study of Australian school children; the development and evaluation of a parent-delivered early language teaching programme for pre-school children; and studies of the role of pattern understanding in reading and arithmetic development.

Steph Hargreaves

Steph is a Research Assistant at The University of Manchester. Her qualifications include a BSc and a Masters of Research in Psychology. Steph has good knowledge of randomised controlled trials because of her experience in NHS clinical research.


Steph supported many child language acquisition studies during her previous role at the Child Study Centre in Manchester, which is part of the ESRC International Centre for Language and Communicative Development (LuCiD) research collaboration investigating how children learn to communicate using language.

Durham University team

Vic Menzies

Vic is an experienced education trial coordinator and researcher with extensive experience of running large trials in nurseries, primary and secondary schools, including the EEF EasyPeasy and Maths Champions randomised controlled trials.

Prior to moving to Durham, Vic’s previous research included studies of early number development in Scotland and the effect of phonological awareness and training on children’s early reading skills.

Dr Helen Cramman

Helen is Research Team Lead for the Research Hub of the School of Education (RHoSE) at Durham University and has experience of leading and delivering large scale surveys, focus groups and interviews as well as managing large trials, including EEF EasyPeasy.

Helen has led a range of studies in the early years with projects including an Innovate UK funded project looking at innovative methods for teaching computer science to reception pupils. She has published on the development of language and number skills in the early years (Boereboom 2018, Copping 2017, Cramman, 2018). Helen also has experience of providing CPD to primary educators.

Paivi Eerola

Paivi is a Research Assistant at Durham University. She has an MPhil in Musicology and an MA in Music Education from the University of Jyvaskyla, Finland. Paivi is experienced in qualitative research methods through running interviews and surveys and analysing qualitative data.

Paivi has supported many evaluations covering a wide age range of pupils, including evaluation of university summer schools schemes aimed at Year 12 pupils; the change in practical science exams at GCSE and A levels; and singing leadership training for primary school teachers. She has published on the social impact of music education (2014) and widening participation in higher education (Younger & Eerola, 2018).


Other members of the Durham University Research Team include Dr Adetayo Kasim and Dr Nasima Akhter, who are the statisticians analysing the data.

Lyn Robinson-Smith from the York Trials Unit at the University of York will also provide expertise in randomised controlled trials in early years’ settings.

Professor Christine Merrell will support the process evaluation as well as the interpretation of the quantitative findings.

Dr Julia Rattray will provide psychology expertise to support the delivery of the assessments.

Contact us

Kelly Burgoyne – PACT Project Lead
tel: 0161 2757208

Steph Hargreaves – PACT Research Assistant
tel: 0161 2757208

Vic Menzies – Durham University Research Trial Officer
tel: 0191 334 4177

Twitter: @PACTLanguage