PACT-3 (2021-2023)

PACT-3 explores whether PACT helps to boost children’s early language and literacy skills.

PACT-3 involves 372 children and their parents across 43 local authority maintained school-based nursery settings in Greater Manchester, Blackpool and Lancashire.

View the PACT-3 timeline to see where the project is up to and what lies ahead: PACT-3 timeline.

If you would like to find out more about our plans for PACT-3, please see the below frequently asked questions.

Frequently asked questions

What happens in PACT-3?

From April to September 2021, 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 2021, the children recruited onto PACT-3 took part in assessments that were made up of game-like language activities. Shortly after, families were put at random into one of two groups.

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

The other group have been asked to carry on as normal (not deliver the PACT programme) and will be given a box of children’s storybooks at the end of nursery.

View the PACT-3 timeline to see where the project is up to and what lies ahead: PACT-3 timeline.

How will you know if the programme worked?

Children’s language skills were measured before families started the programme and we will measure them again at the end of the 30 weeks.

We will then be able to see whether the programme made a difference to children’s development and what differences and impact the programme had on language development.

Children will be seen again approximately 12 months after the programme has finished, when they are in the reception year of school, to see whether there are any delayed effects.

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.

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.

Did families in the PACT group receive training to help them run the programme?

Parents in the PACT group were asked to come to a short group training session (1.5-2 hours) via a video conferencing platform, run by a member of the University of Manchester research team.

Families received the first set of the teaching programme materials prior to 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.

We do ask parents delivering the PACT intervention to record each session that they have done with their child and whether the child enjoyed the session. We ask that parents do this via PACT app.

Parents are shown how to access and use the app during the training sessions. The app is available on many IOS, Android and computer platforms.

If a parent is unable to access the app, they are encouraged to get in touch with the PACT lead at their child’s nursery, who should be able to offer support, or to contact the research team at Manchester for further support and guidance.

Was the first language assessment done with the children before randomisation?

PACT leads and nursery staff undertook the first language assessment with the children before randomisation took place.

It is important to note that group allocation was not decided by their performance on the assessments – it was completely random.

What are the tests/assessments that the children take part in?

In PACT-3 children will be assessed at 3 time points:

  • at the beginning of the project (September/October 2021);
  • at the end of nursery (June/July 2022);
  • at the end of Reception (May/June 2023).

Some of the assessments will be undertaken by PACT leads and teaching staff in school.

This includes the LanguageScreen app, which will look at children’s language skills. LanguageScreen takes approximately 10 minutes.

At the end of nursery and Reception, the research team will also visit children in school for other language assessments. 

Why are only school-based nurseries involved in PACT-3?

In the PACT-2 trial (2019-2021), we worked with 450 families from 47 nurseries. Some of those nurseries were not attached to schools.

In those settings, PACT children went to a large number of different schools for reception year, and by the time of our last assessment, the number of settings in the project jumped up to 113. This meant it was very difficult to follow some of our children in their new schools.

For this reason, we have recruited school-based nurseries in the new PACT-3 trial as a way of minimising the number of new settings that join the project at reception (by virtue of a participant moving to their school).

Can parents who are not involved in the project get hold of this programme?

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