PACT-2 (2019 – 2021)

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

This study builds on the previous trial (2015 – 2017) by testing the effectiveness of the PACT programme, working with 450 children and their parents in Lancashire and Greater Manchester.

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 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 stages of the project involves 70 primary schools who we are working closely with to collect data on children’s progress.

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 an interest in PACT-2 (2019-2021) and shown their support.

We have now completed recruitment and expect to be able to share findings from this project in late 2021.

We are pleased to announce that we are starting a new trial, PACT-3, in early 2021 to test the effectiveness of the PACT language programme further.

If you are a school-based nursery in Greater Manchester or Lancashire and are interested in being involved in the new PACT-3 trial, please register your interest by emailing either or

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

How can I find out more?

Download a copy of our 2019 – 2021 project timeline, where you can see what’s happened in this project so far.

Find out more about our new PACT-3 trial (2021 – 2023).

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 have had to make due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

You can view our updated timeline to see what has changed in the project 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

Frequently asked questions

How has the project been affected by COVID-19?

There have been 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).

We have a final assessment time-point scheduled for June – July 2021. To remove the need for us to visit schools to see children, the assessments will be 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 happens 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.

We are now preparing for the last child assessment time-point in June – July 2021. This will be 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 works?

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 planned for June 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 will take place at the end of Reception (in June/July 2021) using an app administered by school staff, which will remove 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 do you collect and what do you use it for?

In order to see whether the programme works, we collect some information from children, parents and schools. The information we collect 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 visit children in nursery will be DBS checked.

We collect and store 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 families who are in the PACT group receive any training to help them to run the programme?

Parents in the PACT group were asked to come to a short group training session (1-2 hours) at a nursery in their area, which was run by a member of the University of Manchester research team.

If they were unable to attend any of these training sessions, they were trained in nursery by their PACT Lead, who was a member of nursery staff who had been trained to support parents taking part.

Families received the first set of the teaching programme materials at the training.

Do parents need any additional materials to run PACT?

Everything parents need to deliver the teaching programme is provided in the activity packs.

Did the researchers do the first assessment with children before randomisation?

Children were seen by the research team for their first assessment before randomisation took place. It is important to note, however, that group allocation was not decided by their performance on the assessments – it was completely random.

What are the tests/assessments that the researcher will be doing with the children?

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

  1. At the beginning of the project;
  2. At the end of nursery; and
  3. 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 are using an app-based assessment to look at children’s language skills. Reception staff will support children to complete activities on the app. This will take about 10 minutes.

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

Who will do 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) will be completed using an app-based language assessment called LanguageScreen. School staff will support children to complete LanguageScreen activities in school.

I’m a nursery teacher - why are only certain schools involved?

In this project, we are focusing on schools in 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 ( or

I’m a parent who is not involved in the project, can I get hold of this programme myself?

Unfortunately, because we are still testing whether the programme works, it is not currently available to parents outside of the project.