Events listing

School Funders’ network

Parental engagement: addressing inequality in children’s early attainment


  • Naomi Eisenstadt, University of Oxford
  • Professor Kathy Sylva, University of Oxford
  • Fiona Jelley, University of Oxford
  • Dr Janet Goodall, University of Bath
  • Laura Barbour, Sutton Trust
  • Gina Crane, Esmee Fairbairn Foundation
  • Emma Beresford, Parental Engagement Network


  • Stephen Tall, Director, Development & Communications, EEF

Event details:

A child’s life chances are heavily determined at birth. Disadvantaged children start lagging behind their better off peers before they start school. Small gaps in early development go on to predict big differences in future outcomes.

In 2014, the Sutton Trust and Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, working with the University of Oxford Department of Education, launched a £1 million Parental Engagement Fund. This was aimed at developing effective parental engagement practice in the UK. The School Funders’ Network heard from the funders at its launch.

The Parental Engagement Fund aimed to increase knowledge of ‘what works’ by supporting innovative parental engagement interventions; to develop their delivery; and increase their understanding of impact. The need for this knowledge has grown even stronger since its launch, with commissioners at every level shifting their focus to early interventions and increasingly requiring robust impact evidence when deciding what they will fund or endorse.

In this session, we will hear briefly from a range of speakers, who will reflect on the key lessons learned from the Fund, engaging in discussion around:

  • the positive results that the fund has yielded, including new practices and approaches that will drive up parental engagement, support child development and increase the quality of Home Learning Environments;
  • the scope for further adoption and scale of interventions with positive findings; and
  • what works in early stage evaluation, and how a ‘critical friend’ model aids projects like the Parental Engagement Fund.

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