The REAL Programme

This project and its evaluation were affected by the 2020 and 2021 partial school closures caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, we are no longer able to deliver assessments in order to estimate the impact of the programme on pupil attainment. The final report will, instead, focus on the implementation and process evaluation activities undertaken as part of the project. The evaluation protocol is being updated and will be published here as soon as possible.

The REAL Programme is a targeted programme which aims to support literacy development by working with children and parents to improve the home learning environment. The intervention will train one teacher per school, with each teacher working with 8 children. Practitioners are given 4 days CPD and will then conduct up to 10 home visits for each child, alongside a number of literacy events for parents and carers.

The programme is based on the ORIM framework, which supports parents to: create Opportunities for learning; Recognise and value small steps; Interact in positive ways; and Model explicit literacy.

The programme will be targeted at children in schools with nursery settings who have been identified as having a relatively lower age-related development in early literacy and is being delivered by the National Children’s Bureau. 

Why are we funding it?

As part of the Home Learning Environment Round, the EEF has partnered with the Department for Education and Leeds-based education charity SHINE to test projects that support parents to help improve their children’s learning and development before they start school.

The National Children’s Bureau currently runs a version of the REAL programme in early years settings across the country. This version of the programme was evaluated through a small randomised controlled trial as part of the Sutton Trust’s Parental Engagement Fund in 2017. It demonstrated that the project was feasible and showed a significant improvement in the Home Learning Environment Index. The programme was also evaluated in a randomised controlled trial in the 1990s with 176 families – this evaluation found a positive effect on average. This trial will therefore build on the existing evidence base.

How are we evaluating it?

This will be an efficacy trial evaluated by a team from NatCen. The evaluation will be structured as a randomised controlled trial which will compare the progress of children who receive The REAL Programme with a ‘business as usual’ control group. 120 schools with nursery settings will be recruited to the trial, with 60 settings receiving the intervention from January 2020.

The primary outcome will be literacy as measured through independently administered tests at the beginning and end of the trial. The secondary outcome will explore changes in the home learning environment as a result of the intervention.

When will the evaluation report be due?

The evaluation report will be published in Autumn 2021.