Texting Parents

This project involved text messages being sent to parents using school communications systems, such as Schoolcomms. Texts informed parents about dates of upcoming tests, whether homework was submitted on time, and what their children were learning at school.

accessibility

Key Stage 3, Key Stage 4

Key stage

school

Cross curriculum

Subject

EEF Summary

We funded this project because existing evidence suggests that engaging parents in their children’s education can have a positive impact on pupil outcomes. A study in the United States found evidence that texting information to parents about children’s attendance and homework submission records was successful in increasing their attainment.

This evaluation found a small positive impact on mathematics attainment and on decreasing absenteeism. While this result was small, the cost of sending texts parents is very low (a maximum of around £6 per pupil per year averaged over three years) making the intervention highly cost-effective.

Several studies of previous interventions that aimed to increase the involvement of parents in their children’s education have not found an impact on attainment, including more intensive and costly projects. The evidence in the Teaching and Learning Toolkit also suggests that changing parents’ behaviour is challenging - especially for parents of older students, such as those who took part in this project. The cost effectiveness of the approach and the easy availability of the technology to schools mean that communicating with parents through text messaging is an approach that school leaders should consider.

Research Results

English

+1
Months' Progress
Evidence Strength

Maths

+1
Months' Progress
Evidence Strength

Science

0
Months' Progress
Evidence Strength

Absenteeism

-0.05 (Effect size)

Evidence Strength

Were the schools in the trial similar to my school?

29 schools took part in the trial, 21 of which were rated good or outstanding by Ofsted. 26% of pupils were eligible for pupil premium and 20% had English as an additional language. 

Could I implement this in my school?

Many schools already have software that allows them to communicate directly with parents using text messages. This project used research assistants to co-ordinate the collection of content for and to organise the sending of messages. 

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School Leaders

Delivered by

language

Whole School

Participant group

date_range

1 Year

Intervention length

How much will it cost?

The average cost of Texting parents was around £5680, or £6 per pupil per year when averaged over three years. This includes the cost of a licence for Schoolcomms. Many schools will have existing communications software, which will reduce costs. 

£

£6

Cost per pupil

today

0.0 Days

Training time per staff member

Evaluation info

Schools

34

Pupils

15697

Key Stage

Key Stage 3

Start date

January 2013

End date

July 2016

Type of trial

Efficacy Trial

Evaluation Conclusions

  1. Children who had the intervention experienced about one month of additional progress in maths compared to other children. This positive result is unlikely to have occurred by chance.

  2. Children who had the intervention had reduced absenteeism compared to other children. This positive result is unlikely to have occurred by chance.

  3. Children who had the intervention appeared to experience about one month of additional progress in English compared to other children. However, analysis suggests that this finding might have been affected by bias introduced by missing data, so we cannot reliably draw this conclusion. There is no evidence to suggest that the intervention had an impact on science attainment.

  4. Schools embraced the programme and liked its immediacy and low cost. Many respondents felt that the presence of a dedicated coordinator would be valuable to monitor the accuracy and frequency of texts. Schools should consider whether they would be able to provide this additional resource.

  5. The vast majority of parents were accepting of the programme, including the content, frequency, and timing of texts.


  1. Updated: 19th November, 2018

    Printable project summary

    1 MB pdf - EEF-texting-parents.pdf

  2. Updated: 8th April, 2016

    Amended Project Protocol

    280 KB pdf - EEF_Project_Protocol_Texting_Parents_Amended.pdf

  3. Updated: 8th February, 2016

    Project Protocol

    543 KB pdf - EEF_Project_Protocol_TextingParents.pdf

  4. Updated: 4th August, 2017

    Texting_Parents

    845 KB pdf

Full project description

The Parent Engagement Project (PEP) was a school-level intervention designed to improve pupil outcomes by engaging parents in their children’s learning. The intervention involved text messages being sent to parents using school communications systems, such as Schoolcomms. Texts informed parents about dates of upcoming tests, whether homework was submitted on time, and what their children were learning at school. The programme was developed collaboratively by research teams from the University of Bristol and Harvard University and was delivered between September 2014 and July 2015. The trial involved 15,697 students in Years 7, 9 and 11 from 36 English secondary schools, with schools sending an average of 30 texts to each parent over the period of the trial.

This study was an efficacy trial in which the developers of the intervention managed its delivery to ensure optimal implementation. It was a cluster randomised controlled trial with randomisation at the Key Stage level, designed to determine the impact of the intervention on the academic outcomes of students in English, maths, and science, and the impact on absenteeism. A process evaluation used focus groups, telephone surveys, interviews, and an online survey to provide data on implementation and to capture the perceptions and experiences of participating parents, pupils, and teachers. The project was co-funded by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) and Nominet Trust as part of a funding round focused on digital technology.