PACT-2 (2019 – 2021)

PACT-2 (2019-2021) explored whether PACT helps to boost children’s early language and literacy skills.

The study built on the previous trial (2015 – 2017) by testing the effectiveness of the PACT programme.

PACT-2 worked with 450 children and their parents in Lancashire and Greater Manchester, providing parents with strategies, resources and activities that support their child’s early language development at home.

All testing and data collection is now complete, and PACT-2 is now at the analysis and evaluation stage, testing the effectiveness of the programme.

 

Why was 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 tested the effectiveness of a parent delivered language teaching programme on children’s language skills.

How was the project funded?

The project was 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 provides teachers and education professionals with summaries of research projects with the hope of improving education practice.

Who was involved in the project?

The research project was carried out by The University of Manchester and Durham University.

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

The project is being evaluated by the research team at Durham University. The PACT programme materials were published by Book Trust.

PACT-2 worked with approximately 450 families in the Greater Manchester and Lancashire areas. At the start of the project, our families were trained and supported through 47 nursery schools. The final stage of the project then involved 70 primary schools who we worked closely with to collect data on children’s progress.

What did the project involve?

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

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

Within each school, children and their parents were 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.

What did we find?

Findings from PACT-2 are expected to be available in early 2022.

Information for participating schools and families

Thank you to all families, schools and Local Authority partners for supporting this project and taking part in this important research.

We have included some FAQs further down this page to provide more information on the 2019-2021 project, and on the changes we had to make due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

You can view our updated timeline (PDF) to see what changes were made in PACT-2 due to COVID-19, and to see where we’re up to in the project.

If you have any questions about the project, you can get in touch with the PACT Project Lead, Kelly, by emailing kelly.burgoyne@manchester.ac.uk.

Frequently asked questions

How was the project affected by COVID-19?

There were some changes to our plans as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The final set of PACT materials were scheduled to be sent to the Programme Group families in April 2020 – delivery of the materials was delayed due to the first UK lockdown. Nonetheless, we managed to send all of the remaining packs to relevant families/nurseries in June 2020.

The University of Manchester team had planned to visit children in nursery for their second assessments in June 2020. Unfortunately, we were unable to do this because of the COVID-19 pandemic and UK lockdown(s).

The final assessment time-point took place in June-July 2021. To remove the need for us to visit schools to see children, the assessments were carried out by school staff using an app.

We are extremely grateful for the ongoing support from families and schools taking part in the project.

What happened in the project?

From April to September 2019, the team at The University of Manchester worked closely with nurseries to support them in reaching out to families to discuss taking part in the PACT project.

In September 2019, the research team went to the nurseries to meet the children and carry out assessments, which were made up of game-like language activities. Children and their parents were put at random into one of two groups.

One group were given the PACT language programme and were asked to work on the programme at home every weekday (five days a week) for about 20 minutes, for 30 weeks. The other group were given a box of children’s storybooks at the end of nursery.

The research team had planned to see the children again in June-July 2020 to carry out assessments to see how their language skills have developed. Unfortunately, we were not able to do this because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The last child assessment time-point in June-July 2021 was administered by school staff using an app. We are pleased we have been able to find a way to collect information about children’s language development during the pandemic.

PACT timetable

  • November 2018-April 2019: School recruitment and training
  • April-July 2019: Parent recruitment
  • September 2019: First child assessment
  • November 2019-June 2020: 30 weeks of PACT (PACT programme group) OR business as usual (comparison group)
  • June-July 2021: Final child assessment
How will you know if the programme worked?

The first assessment took place in September 2019 (the start of nursery); the second was planned between June and July 2020 (towards the end of nursery) and the third took place in June-July 2021 (towards the end of Reception).

Unfortunately, we were not able to do the second assessments because of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated UK lockdown(s).

The final language assessments took place at the end of Reception (in June/July 2021) using an app administered by school staff, which removed the need for the research team to visit schools.

How did you decide who is in each group?

The best way to test whether a teaching programme works is to use a randomised controlled trial (RCT). We are using this to see whether PACT works.

A key feature of an RCT is that participants are randomly put in different groups. This means that families have an equal chance of being in either group: this is not decided by the researchers or the schools – allocation is completely random.

By doing this, we can reduce the influence of things that may have an effect on our “programme outcome” – this can be things like the child’s age and the number of hours they have in nursery, etc.

We can then be sure that our results are because of PACT rather than something else. It is really important that families stay in the group they are put into so that we can be sure of our findings.

What information did you collect and what did you use it for?

To see whether the programme works, we collected some information from children, parents and schools. The information we collected is listed on the parent participation agreement.

We will look at the information we collect at the end of the project to see whether the programme works.

All staff working on the project have undertaken relevant data protection training and all staff who visited children in nursery were DBS checked.

We collected and stored personal information in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Data Protection Act 2018.

For the purpose of this research project, information provided will be linked with the National Pupil Database (held by the Department for Education), other official records, and shared with the Department for Education, Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) and EEF’s data contractor FFT Education.

Did parents need any additional materials to run PACT?

Everything parents needed to deliver the teaching programme was provided in the activity packs.

What were the tests/assessments that the researcher did with the children?

We had planned to assess children three times in the project:

  • at the beginning of the project;
  • at the end of nursery;
  • at the end of Reception.

Unfortunately, we were not able to do the second assessments because of the COVID-19 pandemic and UK lockdown(s).

For the assessments at the end of Reception, we used an app-based assessment to look at children’s language skills. Reception staff supported children to complete activities on the app. This took approximately 10 minutes.

Completing the assessments this way avoided the need for the research team to visit schools.

Who did the assessments?

Trained and experienced research staff (with full DBS checks) from The University of Manchester team ran the assessments with children at the beginning of nursery (September 2019).

Assessments at the end of Reception (June-July 2021) were completed using an app-based language assessment called LanguageScreen. School staff supported children to complete LanguageScreen activities in school.

Why are only certain schools involved?

In this project, we focused on schools in the Greater Manchester and Lancashire areas.

However, if you are interested in being involved in future trials, you can register your interest by emailing the University of Manchester team kelly.burgoyne@manchester.ac.uk or pact@manchester.ac.uk.