Getting parents involved in children’s learning

Getting parents involved in children’s learning

PEEP programme, Maybole

Led by: South Ayrshire Council CLD service


The CLD team in the Ayrshire town of Maybole, working with local health services and other learning community partners, are just one of many that have put into practice an approach, long-established nationally, to helping parents of very young children to learn how to provide more everyday learning opportunities.  They systematically gather feedback which demonstrates that the children are learning and the parents gaining in confidence. This is backed by research evidence from the national programme that shows major benefits for both children and parents.


Maybole is a small town in South Ayrshire, with a population of approximately 4,759[1].  The council’s CLD service has a team based there, working in the town and surrounding villages of North Carrick. They deliver programmes supporting vulnerable parents.    Along with partners they also identified the need for a universal programme for parents, to encourage them to interact in a positive way with their child.

CLD staff decided to investigate the use of an established approach called PEEP (Parents Early Education Partnership). It was originally developed and piloted in Oxford, and they saw it in action in Edinburgh. There are over 1,500 PEEP trained Practitioners in Scotland alone. It “recognises that parents and carers are children’s first and most important educators and aims to support adults to give their children a flying start in life”[2].

The PEEP Learning Together programme helps parents to support their babies’ and children’s language, reading, writing, numeracy and sense of self. It helps to build children’s and parents’ self-esteem and instil positive attitudes towards learning. The aim is to offer ideas, information and experiences that enable parents to make the most of everyday learning opportunities at home.

Actions taken

After initial training, CLD staff implemented the programme in the local community. Alongside wider publicity, the local Assistant Nurse Practitioner and Health Visitors gave parents information on the PEEP programme and asked permission to pass their names on to CLD staff. 

About 50% of those who gave permission participated. They were a mix of vulnerable and more able parents – staff found that this worked well. Teenagers and mothers aged 40+ mixed in the same groups. One or two fathers got involved, but 90% were mothers (or grandmothers).

Though PEEP offers five levels, aimed at 0-4 year olds, the CLD team focused on delivering the first three of these in the community: for babies, one- and two-year olds.  Each hour-long session with a group of about 12-15 involves a structured programme of songs and rhymes, stories, activity time and, crucially, ‘parent talk time’.

Partnership and strategy

The Maybole Parenting Think Tank involves all the partners that work with children and families. It is a sub group of the North Carrick Learning Community Partnership. The Health Visitors, Community Midwives and Assistant Nurse Practitioner have been the principal partners for the PEEP programme.  Head teachers, Social Work, council child care services and voluntary organisations are also involved. Programme planning is carried out with both the Think Tank and the Learning Community Partnership, and evaluations of the PEEP programme are shared with both groups.

CLD staff are now delivering PEEP programmes across South Ayrshire, and the Council has recently appointed additional Early Years staff partly to deliver PEEP to older pre-5s in partnership with Nursery Schools.

Evidence of impact

Parents provide regular impact statements to show the benefit both to themselves and their children from participating in the PEEP programme.  Staff also use the local CLD Quality Assurance Toolkit to gather both quantitative and qualitative data, and have begun to use the NIACE ‘catching confidence tool’[3], “designed to help adult learning providers to develop, identify and record changes in confidence during learning.”

Parents recognise improvements in their child’s language, reading and understanding of numbers. Prior to starting PEEP 30% of parents involved stated that they were not confident parents.  Subsequently, all of them stated that they were now confident. 

 Parents are also more confident in engaging with their child in activities.  Only 10% of participating parents have not visited the library with their child, compared to 60% before starting PEEP.  Some parents have gone on to other adult learning opportunities.

However there are limits to what impacts can be captured routinely from participants in a small local programme, particularly with such young children involved. An advantage of participation in a well-established national programme is that there is other evidence available, which gives good reason to believe that participation has a long term impact and helps to prevent future difficulties.

PEEP has been evaluated in five independent research studies by the Universities of Oxford, Sheffield and Warwick. For example the six-year ‘Birth to School Study’[4] found that PEEP parents were rated significantly higher on the quality of their care-giving environment. PEEP children made significantly greater progress in skills related to future literacy, e.g. vocabulary, awareness of rhyme and alliteration, letter identification, understanding of books and print, and writing. PEEP children were also rated higher on self-esteem by the age of five years.

The ‘Enabling Parents Study’[5] found that PEEP parents, compared to a similar group of non-PEEP parents:

                    reported significantly greater awareness about how to help their child’s literacy development

                    had improved their socio-economic status (as measured by their job)

                    had taken more courses, particularly in basic skills.

[2]PEEP is an early intervention charity. set up in 1995 to support parents and carers to enhance their children’s learning and development from birth:

[4]  M Evangelou, G Brookes, S Smith, D Jennings (2005) A longitudinal evaluation of Peers Early Education Partnership (PEEP) 1998–2005 See:

[5] K Sylva,  M Evangelou, G Brooks (2004) See:


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