Case study: Me, You and Science Too

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The project has just been brilliant, just amazing. It’s been wonderful how many parents have come in and taken part in reading the stories.

Joanne Smith Teacher, Battle Hill School

The big idea

Building strong relationships with parents, giving them the skills and confidence to talk about science and technology with their young children.

Why it’s needed

Communication between children and their families in the early years is crucial to a child’s development at this key stage in their life.

Regular guided reading between parents and children makes a significant, lasting impact on a child. It is also an effective way of teaching young children STEM subjects, raising knowledge of science at an early age.

However, many parents struggle with confidence when it comes to shared reading with their children and schools can struggle to find ways of engaging them successfully, particularly in more deprived areas. If relationships and trust can be built between these parents and Early Years practitioners, then these parents can make a real difference to the development of their children as they move into primary school.

How it works

Battle Hill Primary School in North Tyneside is partnering with NUSTEM at Northumbria University. Initially, the partnership worked together to explore how best to engage with families who may experience challenges with reading themselves.

Now workshops are held each half term at the school, where parents are supported to help their children to read aloud at home.

Families with children in nursery and reception classes, including those previously thought to be ‘hard to reach’, have been invited to attend each of the sessions. Rather than lecturing the parents and making assumptions, staff delivering the project take a listening approach, building up a relationship of trust with the parents.

Parents are shown how they can share reading with their children by helping them with tricky words and asking them questions about the story.

Following each session, every participant receives a copy of the STEM story book used in the workshop, helping to build their home library.

The impact

In its first year, the project has exceeded its target, reaching 88 children and 77 parents/carers across three sessions. Attendance has been strong, with 73% attending all sessions.

Many of the children taking part had previously not owned a single book, whereas now they have three STEM-related books of their own at home.

Children are encouraged to go home and complete follow-up activities and re-read the book. Around 94% of participants say they have read the books again following the sessions.

Parents have grown in confidence over time, sharing with the school the activities they have been doing with their children at home. They carried on doing this remotely during lockdown.

Joanne Smith, from Battle Hill Primary said: “Part of my role is to try and get the parents through the door. We feel that if you get them through the door in early years they’re going to continue on their journey through primary school, with the same mindset. And the project has just been brilliant, just amazing. It’s been wonderful how many parents have come in and taken part in reading the stories.

“We have a lot of parents who we’ve struggled to reach previously. It’s been lovely to see all these parents coming through. Even those parents whose children have only been in a couple of weeks have been joining in with the sessions, which has given me the opportunity to get to know them.

“A lot of our children don’t have stories at home, they don’t have a book so that’s been a big incentive for them to take part in the sessions.

“One little boy who stands out is Tom. Tom has a difficult home life. He has four younger siblings and one older sibling. Mum does her best, but they don’t have any books at home. The very first book we read was Look Up and Tom took it home and mum read it over and over again to him. We can tell that because he has been making up his own stories at school and they are all very much focused on that book. Tom has taken his own ideas from the story, which is lovely. We would never have got that if he hadn’t taken part in this project.”