Leading family support charity, Home-Start UK, is helping families make sure their children are ready for their first day at school as they publish a series of free activity sheets on their website.

The resources are part of Home-Start’s Big Hopes Big Future project, which has been backed by the Department for Education.

The programme uses Home-Start’s national network of volunteers who tailor their support to the specific needs of the parents and children of each family they support Big Hopes Big Future is already running in 94 communities across England and so far 831 children have received support from a specially trained volunteer.

Now, Home-Start is making a selection of 17 activity cards from the project available to all parents as free downloads, at www.home-start.org.uk/bighopesbigfuture.

Each sheet contains tips, ideas and activities, as well as suggesting useful books and resources that parents can use.
The sheets cover topics including helping children to recognise numbers and letters, establishing daily routines, and introducing basic hygiene.

Each year around 600,000 five-year-olds start school for the first time, yet studies estimate that almost half will not be ready for education and do not have basic skills such as being able to hold a pencil, recognising their name when it’s written down, or being toilet trained.

A study into the Big Hopes Big Future programmes carried out with the Centre for Family Research at the University of Cambridge and the University of South Wales showed that Home-Start’s support led to between 25% and 33% improvement in the children’s school readiness.

The study also showed that improvement in language and cognition was particularly evident for children who were eligible for free school meals, for families with mental health issues and for those with multiple deprivation.

Home-Start’s chief executive, Rob Parkinson said: “The early years of a child’s education are so important to their chances in life. Making sure they are ready for that first school day starts in the home. With Big Hopes Big Future we have been supporting those families where otherwise their children would not have been ready for that first day, we have now put our resources on our website so they are available to every family.”