Over 80 people attended Home-Start UK Scotland's parliamentary reception on Wednesday 1st November to hear more about how it is helping tackle the educational attainment gap by supporting local Home-Starts to deliver the Big Hopes Big Future programme for the first time in Scotland.

Research shows those in the least deprived areas are almost twice as likely to leave school with at least one Higher compared with children from the most deprived areas (80.3% vs 41.2%). And studies show that this gap in attainment starts from the very earliest age.

Host Iain Gray MSP opened the event by praising Home-Start for working with volunteers to provide effective, direct and very practical support for families. He reminded people that the attainment gap affects disadvantaged children long before they start school with some almost a year behind their peers in developmental terms by age five.

He went on to celebrate the fact that children and parents in his constituency of East Lothian will be among the first to benefit from a programme “which has proved to be highly effective” in England saying this opportunity was due to: “The track record of Home-Start East Lothian and the foresight of the East Lothian Fa'side Area Partnership” which is funding the programme locally.

BHBF Programme Manager Helen Hudd explained how volunteers will work with parents and carers to turn everyday activities, both indoors and outdoors, into playful opportunities to boost their children's social, emotional and behavioural development before they start school.

There was also a reminder that Pupil Equity Fund money, managed by headteachers, can be used to invest in BHBF and other early years work before children start school.

Volunteers and staff from the first two pilot Home-Start areas, East Lothian and Aberdeen, described their work on recruiting volunteers and families wishing to benefit from the programme.

Home-Start UK’s Scotland Director, Shelagh Young, said “It was encouraging to see so many organisations represented, from our key funders the STV Children's Appeal and a number of senior staff from the Third Sector to local councillors, head teachers and policymakers who share our concern that too many children are still being left behind. It was also good to see so many representatives from the Home-Start network across Scotland.”

Finally, guest speaker Dr Janet Goodall, a University of Bath Lecturer in Educational Leadership and Management, confirmed the potential value of Big Hopes Big Future to families and schools in Scotland by drawing on her considerable expertise in parental engagement in children's learning.

Dr Goodall was clear on the crucial importance for every child, from early years right through into school, of professionals in education and others –such as Home-Start volunteers – being willing to engage with parents in ways which respect their capacity and potential to help their children flourish.

Closing the attainment gap, she reminded the audience, is a matter of social justice.

But although the evidence shows that children from disadvantaged families tend to be the ones who are already falling behind before they start school, Dr Goodall gave a powerful positive reminder of why it does not have to be this way.

When it comes to child development, she said, we must always remember that “what parents do is far more important than who they are.”

Learn more about Big Hopes Big Future