PACT background

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 projects test whether PACT helps to boost children’s early language and literacy skills. You will find details of the first PACT project below.

Information on current and new trials exploring the effectiveness of PACT can be found on the PACT-2 (2019-2021) and PACT-3 (2021-2023) pages.

The first PACT study

The first PACT study ran between 2015 and 2017, and was funded by the Nuffield Foundation.

In this study, Kelly Burgoyne and her colleagues developed the language teaching programme and ran a trial 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 effectively deliver language teaching to their child at home.

PACT-2 and PACT-3 build on this earlier work to see whether these findings are replicated with other children and their families and with some changes to the programme materials and training.


Resources and links

PACT and other early language development resources.