Quarterly Newsletter – February 2013

The February issue of the Improving Futures Evaluation and Learning quarterly newsletter is available to download below.

If you have any news items you would like to submit please send them to improvingfutures@uk.ecorys.com.

Please feel free to forward this email to anyone who you feel may be interested in subscribing to the newsletter and other related emails.

Click here to download our Quarterly Newsletter – February 2013


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Pilot Survey Findings

During November 2012, Ipsos MORI conducted interviews with parents across 5 Improving Futures projects as part of the pilot stage of the Improving Futures survey. We’d like to thank the projects involved for all of their help in running the pilot and for giving their feedback on the piloting process.

The pilot survey proved to be successful: parents were happy to take part in an interview, and generally found it to be a good experience.  The pilot survey has helped to identify some areas where we can make improvements when we run the main survey this spring. As you know, we are asking project staff to help identify families eligible for the survey and to schedule appointments with them, and the pilot has helped to show how we can manage this more smoothly.

We found that the number of parents eligible to be interviewed in the pilot varied between projects, and was sometimes slightly lower than we’d expected.  We have recently circulated a questionnaire to all projects to find out how many families you are likely to have in the coming months that will be eligible for the survey. Being able to get an accurate estimate of eligible families is really important in helping us plan fieldwork for the main stage of the survey. Many of the projects have already returned the questionnaire, but if you haven’t, please do send back the questionnaire as soon as you can.

We are planning to begin the sampling of families for the main stage survey in March 2013, and then begin conducting interviews in April 2013. We will be asking for help from project staff in contacting families and scheduling interviews from March, and will be in touch with projects directly to discuss this in more detail.

If you have any questions about any aspect of the Ipsos MORI survey, please email improvingfutures@ipsos.com, and a member of the Ipsos MORI team will be happy to help you.

A summary of the findings of the pilot survey can be found here.

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Positive parenting environments improve children’s outcomes, says DfE report

Researchers from the Institute of Education have analysed data from two recent studies, identifying that promoting positive parenting environments is a key factor in ensuring children reach their potential.

The researchers looked at both the Millenium Cohort Study (MCS) and the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), and identified that tackling child poverty and promoting positive parenting environments are important factors. Their findings have been published in a report by the Department for Education.

Several risk factors were identified as potentially leading to worse outcomes for children at seven in five different areas: verbal, non-verbal and maths skills, Key Stage 1 attainment, and behaviour. The risk factors with the greatest impact were periods of poverty, and children with long term disabilty or illness – both of these showed an impact on all five areas.

Other factors, such as large numbers of siblings and parents with difficulty reading, were seen to have more of an impact on academic attainment but not on behaviour. The research also identified longer term risks, noting that significant events such as bereavement, parental separation, abuse and homelessness were more likely to lead to to poorer wellbeing and educational attainment in the teenage years, if they occurred after the child was seven.

Several factors were also identified that might help to protect children from these risks. For example, educational attainment and cognitive development seemed to be improved in children with more rooms in their homes – though this may be connected to socio-economic status as well.

Children whose parents read to them regularly had stronger educational attainment, and children whose mothers had higher educational qualifications were seen to have better cognitive skills and improved behaviour.

Read the report (Department for Education)

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Parental involvement is key to Welsh education policy, says new research

A new study by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation suggests that future Welsh education policy should emphasise parental involvement, extra-curricular activities and mentoring. The Welsh education system should combine both learning- and teaching focused interventions and student-, family- and community-focused interventions.

Parental involvement, extra-curricular activities and mentoring have the best evidence base of all family- and community-based initiatives. Recent JRF studies show that some attitudes, aspirations and behaviours (AAB) interventions may contribute to improvements in educational achievement for children in poverty in Wales. However, there needs to be more detailed evidence on their impact, especially for Wales-specific programmes. Future interventions in this area should be rigorously trialled and evaluated before being rolled out widely.

Read the full report

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