News

Government will text parents to ‘count plates’ to improve children’s learning

The Department for Education will run trials designed to improve learning skills in children from poor backgrounds

The government will send three texts a week to parents hit by austerity with tips on how to help their children learn.

Nearly 3,000 disadvantaged families in the north east of England will be targeted by the eight-month Department for Education trial set up to close the attainment gap.

Children from poorer backgrounds are, on average, four months behind their wealthier peers in overall development at five years of age. By the time they are sitting their GCSEs, that lag in attainment has soared to 19 months, according to the department.

Parents of four and five-year-olds will be ‘nudged’ three times a week by texts about activities for literacy and numeracy, “such as counting the number of plates on the table”.

Education secretary Damian Hinds also announced that parents will be given access to early learning apps chosen by panel of experts and bought by the government.

He said: “No parent has all of the answers. Our children are growing up in a constantly changing world and it is hard to keep up.

“And when it comes to children and technology – that’s where a manual can be helpful. Not all screen time is created equal: on one side there are the pressures that come with social media and the time spent looking at a screen, which is a key worry for parents – but on the other, the power of technology and the internet can open up a whole new world when embraced properly.

“But it’s also difficult to navigate, and often expensive, so I want to support parents of all backgrounds to feel able to embrace its benefits.

“The Home Learning Environment can have a huge impact on a child’s ability to succeed in life, so I want to support families with hints and tips to propel their child’s learning so they are not behind on their first day of school and they can go on to reach their full potential, whatever their background.”

Results of the text and app trials will be compared to the effect of regular home visits by early years development experts. They will visit over 300 families with two-year-olds in South Yorkshire twice a week for 15 months to help parents develop their child’s reading and conversation skills.

‘Ignoring’

The Education Committee recently said the government is ignoring social injustice in the early years system.

Sir Kevan Collins, chief executive of the Education Endowment Foundation, said: “Parents want the best for their children, whatever their background or wherever they come from. But it can sometimes be difficult to get parents involved in their child’s learning in practical ways which make a difference and we know little about how to do this well.

“These new trials will give us much needed information about how we can give mums and dads the tools they need to give their child the very best start in life.”

On Wednesday the Resolution Foundation announced that child poverty was on track to hit a record high due to Universal Credit.

Services similar to the government trials have been available from family services like Sure Start in the past, but funding cuts to social care mean an estimated 1,000 Sure Start children’s centres were closed between 2010-2018 leaving many disadvantaged families without support.

And last year Action for Children figures said council budgets for early help services had dropped by £743m in five years.

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Almost no recorded cases of disability benefit fraud despite DWP crackdown: 'PIP fraud is a non-issue'
dwp pip/ disabled person
Disability benefits

Almost no recorded cases of disability benefit fraud despite DWP crackdown: 'PIP fraud is a non-issue'

Deaf man awarded £50,000 after 'oppressive' and 'discriminatory' treatment by DWP
dwp jobcentre
Department for Work and Pensions

Deaf man awarded £50,000 after 'oppressive' and 'discriminatory' treatment by DWP

Green transition: Help retrain gas workers or risk 'cliff edge' job losses, government warned
Green transition

Green transition: Help retrain gas workers or risk 'cliff edge' job losses, government warned

All of Keir Starmer’s U-turns and abandoned policy pledges, from child benefits to private schools
Keir Starmer, U-turn, broken promises
Labour

All of Keir Starmer’s U-turns and abandoned policy pledges, from child benefits to private schools

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know