Disadvantaged families will benefit from extra support to nurture their child’s early development at home, thanks to multi-million pound projects launched by the Education Secretary Damian Hinds.

The projects, backed by nearly £18 million, will include funding for additional training for health visitors who work with families of young children to identify speech, language and communication needs early on, helping to address and support concerns when they can have the most impact. It will also fund educational games, apps and text message ‘tips’ for parents and carers from disadvantaged backgrounds, helping them to interact with their children when at home or out and about, making everyday activities an opportunity for learning.

The Education Secretary has hosted a summit bringing together nearly 100 businesses, charities and public sector organisations designed to tackle the ‘last taboo’ in education – supporting parents with learning at home. The summit will draw on a bank of existing research on parents’ confidence and behaviour when it comes to learning at home with their children.

Research is clear about the importance of the home environment for a child’s early learning, and even small changes can encourage conversations between parents and their young children. The Sutton Trust found parents are twice as likely to talk to children in face-to-face buggies, as opposed to those where the child faces forwards.

Organisations including the National Literacy Trust, the National Children’s Bureau and the Scouts will get a share of the funding to boost parents’ confidence with learning at home, drawing on data that shows a lack of skill or fear of embarrassment can discourage them from interacting in this way. Grants will also go towards improving the training available for professionals working with young children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

One in eight children in receipt of free school meals say they do not own a single book at home, according to the National Literacy Trust. Many of today’s new projects will go to voluntary and community groups to improve early language, literacy and communication skills, building on the free childcare offers already available to three and four-year-olds and the most deprived two-year-olds in England.

They will harness technology and the latest global research to make user-friendly resources like text message prompts for parents to teach children new words and numbers, or strategies to help parents manage behaviour in the home.

Alongside this, the Department for Education has confirmed that a £20 million programme of training for early years staff in disadvantaged areas will support children’s early language, literacy and numeracy skills, benefitting up to 60,000 pre-school age children.

The announcement comes ahead of the summit that brings together a coalition of charities, media groups, technology companies and businesses to explore longer term opportunities to support parents with early learning at home, building on the Education Secretary’s commitment in July to raising outcomes for every child – by halving the percentage who leave reception without the early communication or reading skills they need to thrive by 2028.

Successful grants being announced today include:

£6.5 million for projects focused on closing the disadvantage gap at age five and improving the early years education of children with SEND, including:

  • ICAN’s Change the Conversation about Language project, which will work with disadvantaged parents in three metro mayoral regions using an app called EasyPeasy, a ‘Tots Talking’ programme promoting language development among two-year-olds most at risk of delayed speech, and by investing in parent champions on the ground;
  • National Literacy Trust to improve the home learning environment through business engagement, volunteering and digital support;
  • The Scouts Early Years Pilot Programme in partnership with Action for Children to create and test a national volunteer-led Early Years Scouts programme for children aged four and five;
  • The National Children’s Bureau’s consortium of organisations – including the Council for Disabled Children, Contact a Family, ICAN, The Communication Trust and NASEN – to work jointly across councils and with parents to encourage a culture shift in support for children with SEND, through improved training for professionals in speech, language and communication
  • Pre-School Learning Alliance’s (PSLA) First and Foremost programme, providing families with access to digital activities and support through the early years workforce;

£5 million for trials to be led by the Education Endowment Foundation in partnership with Shine the north of England that will research the best way to help parents in disadvantaged communities to start building their children’s skills at home, so that no child starts school behind their better-off peers. This investment will trial new and existing schemes, including

  • A text-message scheme for parents aimed at improving literacy, maths and social and emotional development, called TipsByText, based on a similar successful programme in the United States;
  • £1.8 million for a programme with Public Health England, including new speech, language and communication training for health visitors, delivered by the Institute of Health Visitors; and
  • £5 million for organisations to investigate what works through bespoke local projects focused on best practice in early language, literacy and maths, to build and share a stronger evidence base. A second round of projects applications has now opened.