Parents from disadvantaged areas will soon receive text messages to “nudge” them to teach their children new words and numbers.
The pilot scheme, called TipsByText, will run in the north of England and be led by the Education Endowment Foundation and Leeds-based education charity SHINE. It hopes to improve literacy, numeracy and general social and emotional development in children before they start school.
The project is based on a similar trial in the US that had positive results, where parents were given text prompts such as “say two words to your child that start with the same sound, like happy and healthy” or “point out the letters on a shampoo bottle next bath time”.
While some parents have welcomed the scheme, others have told HuffPost UK they’re not quite convinced.
Richard Shorter, who has three children and blogs about parenting, thinks the scheme will be unpopular with the very parents it targets, and predicts it will cause “very little” change.
“Parents are tired and frustrated of being told what to do,” he told HuffPost UK.
However Holly Sutton, who runs her own company, said the prompts could be helpful to busy parents and guardians. “I think it’s a good idea,” she said. “I love the prompts I get from my son’s Montessori nursery about skill building. When you’re busy working parents, feeding, washing and sleeping can feel hard enough.”
Mum blogger and former English teacher Bex Massey is on the fence. “I have conflicting thoughts on this,” she said. “An initiative that aims to improve pupils’ literacy skills and seeks to build home-school engagement is positive. However, the chosen method to achieve this seems weak.”
The trial is part of several multi-million pound projects announced by Education Secretary Damian Hinds at a summit on Wednesday morning.
These include projects to better support parents and train early years staff and health visitors to identify language and communication needs among children.
Speaking at the summit, Hinds said education begins long before children arrive in the classroom, adding: “Lots of parents, as much as they want the best for their children, lack the support they need to ensure that their children are arriving at school at the same level as their peers.”
Recruitment to the trials from schools, nurseries and early years settings in the north of England will begin from January 2019.