Tips by Text

This project and its evaluation were affected by the 2020 and 2021 partial school closures caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, the delivery was extended and outcome data collection delivered later than planned. Some outcome data collection has not been possible. The final report will, therefore, make use of the data that has been collected, focusing particularly on the implementation and process evaluation activities undertaken. The updated evaluation protocol is available here.

The Behavioural Insights Team’s Tips by Text programme will deliver a 9-month text curriculum to the parents of Reception children, sending 3 texts per week designed to improve 4-5 year olds’ literacy, language, numeracy and social and emotional skills. These texts are derived from the READY4K! programme developed and tested in California. 

The first message of the week is designed to inform and motivate parents, the second offers a specific activity designed to fit into family routines, while the final message provides encouragement, reinforcement and a follow up tip. A typical activity message to help develop numeracy skills might take the following form: “As you put away the dishes, count the plates one-by-one with your child. Then try the bowls…”

Following a development phase, where BIT will design and pilot an adapted Tips by Text curriculum based on the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (EYFSP), these texts will be delivered to the primary contact parent of half the Reception children in 105 schools. 

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 cognitive skills at home before they start school. Tips by Text will be funded through this round, as it is based on promising evidence from the READY4K! programme in the US.

READY4K! was an 8-month texting programme where 1,031 parents received 3 texts per week designed to improve the cognitive outcomes of their 4 year olds. Two combined randomised control trials showed that children whose parents’ received the texts scored higher on a standardised literacy assessment, while the texts had the largest impact on those children who were lower attainers at the start of the trial. 

How are we evaluating it?

The programme will be evaluated by a team from IES and NIESR using a randomised control trial, with children randomly allocated within schools. This will be an efficacy trial, meaning that the programme will be tested under ideal conditions. It will measure the impact of a 7-month text curriculum on children’s early reading in addition to measuring their performance on the EYFSP in literacy, social and emotional development, language and numeracy.

The evaluation will also include an implementation and process evaluation, which will analyse how the programme is implemented across different schools and the barriers and facilitators to implementation.

When will the evaluation report be due?

The evaluation report will be published in Spring 2021.