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Families Connect

Supporting parents and children to learn together

Strengthening learning environments at home

Families Connect builds on parents’ existing skills and knowledge, providing them with the confidence to support their child’s learning in the home.

Families Connect builds relationships between parents and settings (schools, nurseries, and children’s centres) and provides opportunities for parents to share their parenting experiences with others. 

Read a summary of the independent evaluation of Families Connect

How Families Connect works

Over eight weeks, parents discuss aspects of their children’s learning during informal workshops. They are introduced to a series of adaptable activities, techniques and games that they can do with their children at home to support their children’s learning in three key areas:

  • Social and Emotional development
  • Literacy and language development
  • Numeracy 

Save the Children has adapted Families Connect to be suitable for three-year-olds, informed by co-design with families and piloting in nurseries across the UK. The updated programme for three-to-six-year-olds is available to schools with nursery provision and children’s centres.

The impact

To build on the emerging evidence base from our internal evaluations, Save the Children sought funding from the Nuffield Foundation to partner with NFER and Queens University Belfast to undertake an independent randomised controlled trial and implementation evaluation of Families Connect.

This was designed to build on previous promising findings, to strengthen our understanding of the programme’s impact on parent and child outcomes and identify where the programme could be strengthened and improved, along with continual delivery feedback and review.

Our aim was to advance our collective understanding, as a sector, of how best to support parental engagement and children’s early learning.

Thirty-one schools from disadvantaged areas across the UK (England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland) delivered Families Connect as part of the independent evaluation. A total of 499 children aged four to six from 483 families took part. 

The evaluation found that Families Connect increases parental engagement in children’s learning, improves parental skills, and improves aspects of children's social and emotional development. 

We have produced a briefing document to accompany the full report, which provides an overview of the evaluation findings and sets out our approach for developing Families Connect and priorities for future research, policy and practice.  

You can view the full report and the executive summary.

Lord, P., Rennie, C., Smith, R., Gildea, A., Tang, S., Miani, G., Styles, B. and Bradley, C. (2020). Randomised Controlled Trial Evaluation of Families Connect. NFER, Slough. 

Save the Children would like to thank the Nuffield Foundation and all those who conducted the evaluation and compiled the report at NFER and Queen’s University Belfast. 

The project has been funded by the Nuffield Foundation, but the views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily the Foundation. Visit www.nuffieldfoundation.org.


We were interested in exploring in more depth the relationship between social disadvantage and the parent and child outcomes of the programme. We expanded on the previous study by including a broader definition of social disadvantage and a wider range of outcomes to explore how the programme might be experienced differently by those living in social disadvantage.

This learning paper builds on our findings from the original evaluation, providing us with a more detailed understanding of the relationship between families living in social disadvantage and key outcomes of the Families Connect programme.

Some of our key findings include:

  • Parent self-efficacy, their confidence and skills in supporting their children’s learning, are critical to supporting a positive home learning environment.
  • Social disadvantage was found to negatively impact on children’s numeracy skills and families’ home learning environments. 
  • Families Connect was more impactful on the home learning environment (measured immediately after the programme) for families on lower incomes and those eligible for free school meals.


Families Connect Impact Report 2018, UK wide

Adapting Families Connect for 3-year-olds pilot - an interim evaluation report

Families Connect Summer Evaluation 2016

Families Connect Autumn Evaluation 2016 

Families Connect Privacy Notice

The programme in action

Nadine and her son Regan, 4, take part in a Families Connect session at their school in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Nadine and her son Regan, 4, take part in a Families Connect session at their school in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Nadine took part in Families Connect with her son, Regan.

She says: “Regan has speech problems, so when we talked about books and things like that it really helped him along with his speech.

"Now he’s interacting with other things, counting, reading books or playing with other toys he’s hardly looked at before.”

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