“A rich home learning environment can improve cognitive development for all children, regardless of the socio-economic background

The Scottish Government, 2015

The first day of school is a major milestone in a child’s life and is a transition which many children take in their stride. However, a significant number of children in Scotland today start school at a disadvantage. The educational attainment gap exists at the start of primary school and can widen throughout school education.

Families work with Home-Start to help give their children the best start in life. Big Hopes Big Future is a national programme of support to help children make the most of their start in early years education. Over a period of several months our trained volunteers specifically tailor this support to individual family needs. Using innovative resources, parents are encouraged to get actively involved in early learning through a range of play-based activities.

Children looking up at the camera“Fortunately, the link between deprivation and under-achievement is not set in stone,’ says Rob Parkinson, Chief Executive, Home-Start UK. ‘The importance of a supportive home environment and of parental engagement with early learning for children’s social, emotional and cognitive development is now well understood. Playing; songs and rhymes; books, routines and emotional security - all play a vital part in being ready for school.”

Our support aims to improve interactions between children, parents and peers.

All volunteers are trained with on-going support by experienced Home-Start staff. They encourage parents to nurture their children in ways which will help them to get the most out of their time at nursery and school, focussing on these four key developmental areas:

  • Language skills – e.g. speaking clearly, recognising their name
  • Daily living skills – e.g. able to use scissors, or toilet training
  • Cognitive skills – e.g. regular book-sharing at home
  • Behaviour – e.g. waiting patiently, sharing

The Big Hopes Big Future programme was piloted in England by Home-Start UK in 2014-2015 with funding from the Department of Education, and now supports over 1000 children a year across over 90 local Home-Starts in England. Key findings from an evaluation of the pilot in 2015 included an improvement of between 25 and 33% across the four key developmental areas. The pilot’s greatest impact was recorded in families of children with the highest needs including those whose parents had mental health problems and were coping with complex and multiple disadvantages.

The STV Children’s Appeal is supporting the launch and roll-out of Big Hopes Big Future in Scotland. Home-Start Aberdeen and Home-Start East Lothian will be the first to offer the programme, followed by further Home-Starts across Scotland in 2018.