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Starting School Together project success

Tomorrow, 22 March 2016, PACEY will launch the successful findings of our innovative Starting School Together project, at a central London event with Sam Gyimah, MP, Childcare Minister.

Initially funded by a grant from the Department for Education, the project aimed to help improve children’s transition from childcare into full-time education, focusing particularly on children in areas of disadvantage.

Parents involved in the project reported feeling more confident about their child starting school, and most importantly children’s wellbeing and engagement - as well as their self-confidence and independence - increased as a result.

The project saw early years providers and schools working together in new ways; while parents were reportedly more engaged in the school and in their local community as a result of Starting School Together.

An independent evaluation, conducted by University College London’s (UCL) Institute of Education (IOE), has shown the programme was highly valued by teachers, childcare providers and parents alike.  The vast majority (87%) of professionals involved, indicated they would like to continue with the project, while 76% of parents said they would recommend the Starting School Together approach. 

Starting School Together ran as a pilot project in four schools in Skipton, North Yorkshire and Littleport, Cambridgeshire. The project involved 120 families (60 in each area) with children entering reception in September 2015 until the end of their second term at school (March 2016).

Central to the project was encouraging early years settings, primary schools and families to work collaboratively. Starting School Together supported reception teachers and early years practitioners to share best practice, learning and joint planning, through a shared plan for transition, with the ultimate aim of helping children prepare for school. School staff and early years representatives from the local authorities also met to help plan and progress delivery of Starting School Together locally.

The project drew on evidence from Ofsted and elsewhere that disadvantaged children are significantly less likely to be ready for school than their peers. It also drew on findings from a PACEY survey which highlighted high levels of anxiety among parents about their child starting school.

Liz Bayram, Chief Executive, PACEY comments: “We are delighted with the success of Starting School Together. The central goal was to help children make the transition into full-time education by building their confidence and emotional wellbeing, and easing the anxiety felt by their parents and carers. The results of the evaluation show overwhelmingly that this has been achieved.

At PACEY we believe that by early years settings, primary schools and families working collaboratively, great things can be achieved. Starting School Together provides an innovative model of partnership working which can be built upon for the future.”

The initiative supports families with educational toys and resources, face-to-face meetings, and an online toolkit; in the run-up to starting school, while information about how well children are progressing is shared via a secure online site between providers, schools and parents.

Commenting on the project, Childcare Minister Sam Gyimah, said: "The project is a great opportunity to build on the good practice of nurseries, childminders and schools who already work together to ensure children coming into full time education have the best start possible.”

PACEY is holding a series of FREE regional events around the country, throughout April, to look at the impact of the Starting School Together (SST) approach and explore how the learning from the pilot project could enhance transitions and support children’s emotional wellbeing on starting school.

Representatives from a school or a series of schools (e.g. a school Academy chain), childcare settings or from local authorities are invited to attend and participate in these events. All events are FREE and include lunch to enable an opportunity to network with colleagues.