This page covers the second (efficacy) trial of PACT (Parents and Children Together), testing whether it can work in settings under best possible conditions. To read about the first (efficacy) trial click here
PACT is an early language programme for parents to deliver to their child in the home. Parents are provided with structured activities and resources (e.g. storybooks), and deliver the programme to their child every day for 20 minutes (5 sessions per week) over 30 weeks of teaching. PACT incorporates three key components designed to promote children’s oral language development: 1) Shared reading: parents read books with their child using strategies which support verbal interaction and active engagement; 2) Vocabulary instruction: selected words are taught using interactive activities to promote understanding and expression; 3) Narrative (storytelling): activities include sequencing, summarising and telling/retelling stories.
This trial will focus on schools in the north-west of England.
PACT has promising evidence of impacts from a recent RCT led by its developer, and funded by the Nuffield Foundation. This study involved 208 pre-school children (aged 3‑years) and their parents in 22 children’s centres. Children were randomly allocated to receive either the oral language programme or an active treatment control programme targeting motor skills and self-care. PACT produced improvements in children’s language skills at immediate post-test, which were maintained 6 months later. The study also reported improvements in some early literacy skills at delayed follow up. Immediate gains in narrative were found though these had faded at follow-up.
EEF funded an RCT of the programme with 3 – 4 year olds in school-based settings with delivery taking place Autumn 2019 – Summer 2020. This was funded to build the evidence further, by evaluating the programme in schools, and with a larger sample. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in it not being possible to collect endline assessment data in Summer 2020 (more information about this trial can be found here).
Given the positive evidence from the prior trial funded by Nuffield, the EEF agreed to fund a re-trial of the programme. The within-school randomisation approach, and parent to child delivery model, meant the trial and programme could be provided to the same schools involved in the first EEF trial to their nursery cohort in the 2021/22 academic year.
The programme will be evaluated as an efficacy trial by a team from the University of Durham, as a randomised controlled trial in 43 schools with nursery classes. The focus will be on children aged 3, with parents randomly allocated within settings to receive the programme or not. Outcomes in language will be measured at the end of the programme and in a delayed post-test in Reception. A process evaluation will be conducted to understand how the programme is implemented, and to gather the views of teachers and parents.
The evaluation report will be published in Summer 2023.