Families and Schools Together (FAST)

Families and Schools Together (FAST) is a parental engagement programme that has been run in over a dozen countries over the last 25 years. Parents and their children attend eight weekly 2.5-hour group sessions delivered by accredited FAST trainers, involving teachers and other members of the community. The programme is highly structured and each week includes: a weekly meal cooked by a family and shared by the group, family communication exercises, peer support for parents and focused one-on-one time for parents and children.

FAST aims to improve parenting skills and confidence, and parents’ engagement in their child’s learning, whilst also improving the behaviour and attainment of their children. Families completing six or more of the eight sessions ‘graduate’, and parents continue to meet on a monthly basis for two years after the initial eight-week programme. In the UK, Save the Children has been delivering FAST in partnership with Middlesex University since 2010, and is keen to understand the impact of the programme on children’s learning and social and emotional development through an independent trial.

Why are we funding it?

Although parental involvement is consistently associated with pupils’ success at school, the evidence about how to increase involvement to improve attainment is much less conclusive. EEF is keen to build the evidence on what works to increase parental engagement, and this project provides an exciting opportunity to test a highly regarded programme.

How are we evaluating it?

A team from NFER has been appointed to deliver the evaluation. The evaluation will be structured as an RCT involving 120 primary schools: 60 will be allocated to receive the FAST programme, and 60 schools will be allocated to the control group. Control schools will receive a financial incentive for taking part in the study. EEF has made provision for increasing the sample size if there is demand and delivery capacity.

The primary outcome measure will be Key Stage 1 tests completed at the end of Year 2. In addition to academic attainment, the evaluation will also explore the impact of the programme on social and emotional development, using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire at three points in time. This will capture the effect of FAST on five domains including: difficulties in children’s behaviour and relationships, emotional symptoms or difficulties, conduct problems, hyperactivity and peer problems, and positive attributes and strengths of the child.

When will the evaluation report be due?

The evaluation report will be published in Spring 2018.