Family learning, parenting and school readiness 

parents and baby


We know that play is fundamental to a child’s learning and development. Play is how children make sense of the world. It helps them express their feelings, manage emotions and find out about themselves and others.

Play is even more important now as it is the first step in giving them back a sense of control after a confusing time in their lives throughout the pandemic. 

Open-ended play materials promote imagination, creative thinking and physical dexterity in early years sessions.

At the Alliance we have a strong outdoor learning ethos to enable children to re-connect with nature and care for the environment. 

For example, our Little Explorer session is based on the Five to Thrive key activities: respond, cuddle, relax, play and talk and support parents’ understanding of how positive interactions with their baby through a range of play experiences helps develop their baby’s brain.

Our Learning Through Play sessions support school readiness development from the earliest opportunity. These sessions offer activities and experiences which can be replicated in the home environment, encouraging children’s independence, confidence and social skills scaffolding learning and development ready to achieve a good level of development.

Family Learning 

Learning Together

Learning Together programmes for babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers are underpinned by the Peep framework evidence base. They support all aspects of the EYFS and promote parents' skills and abilities to help their child’s learning and development.  

As a major accredited training provider, the Alliance offers high quality family learning, such as our popular ‘Let's Learn Together at Home’ and ‘Let's Get Ready for School’ programmes: 

Let's Learn Together@Home is a six-week programme for families supporting children’s learning and development in the home environment. 

Let's Get Ready for School is a three-week interactive programme with themed sessions on Independence, Fingers and Tools and My First Day at School. We provide families with knowledge as parents are their child’s main educator, enabling them to support the learning and development to school readiness and transition to school through everyday activities. 

100% of families said that they feel the sessions have helped them and their child get ready for school. 

Parent feedback

"This has been a very supportive, lovely group. It is lovely to see some different faces and be able to share my school worries. I feel so much happier about it all now."

"I will try and make him more independent now rather than do things for him like I do for the little ones. He has started to try and do more things for himself and I have let him use scissors, which I never would have done before this group."

Resource:  We collated a range of videos and top tips to support parents in getting ready for nursery and for school. You can see them here.

Parent Connect sessions 

We recognised the isolation in for so many families during the Covid-19 pandemic and introduced our Parent Connect sessions on a virtual platform for families across the country. 

There were weekly hour-long sessions covering topics such as: learning in the kitchen, outdoor play, tips for toilet training, healthy eating, attachment, routines, process over product and others. Parents were given additional resources and ideas to use at home. 

This interactive parent/carer participation service enables parents to have direct access to support and provide peer support in a safe, welcoming environment.  

More than 1,200 families registered to attend our online parent connect sessions during 2021, with consistently positive feedback.

Parent feedback

‘What a fab session, I had no idea on routines or how important it is to read anything with my child, we have a good bedtime routine now, it has made life so much easier for us both, I can’t thank you enough.’ 

‘Since my child has been attending twice a week, her interaction with other children has improved. She has also learnt to be gentle with smaller babies as well as sharing toys with other kids. My child enjoys reading books with me now and her concentration level is great, thanks to circle time. She sings a lot of the rhymes learnt from the group at home. It has made such a difference to her development.’ 

 ‘I’m very lucky to have joined your early years groups, not just for the messy play but for the vast knowledge that you all have.’ 

PEEP Programme 

The PEEP Programme is delivered by trained early years educators, supporting parents and carers as their child’s first educator to support their learning and development. 

These sessions are delivered face to face, although during lock down this was successfully adapted to a virtual offer.  

Parents’ confidence in supporting their child’s learning and development improved significantly after attending this course: 

Parent feedback

“I’m a first-time mum and under lockdown being new to the area it seemed tough but joining these sessions has helped me feel supported and like I’m still moving forward and learning things as a mum. Over lockdown I often felt like life was on standby the sessions made everything more real and it was lovely meeting other mums.” 

‘" have learnt that doing songs with actions will help my daughter interact and learn from me, our favourite song is green frog song and I loved it when she copied me and stuck her tongue back out at me. And when I made sounds, she was watching me and then started to make her own sounds back.’"

Language and Communication 

We know that children’s speech and language development is an area of focus for many local authorities, given the below average GLD data for Communication and Language. 

Our ‘Rhyme Time’ and ‘Sing It, Move it!’ Sessions promote language and communcation through the medium of song and rhyme. 

Here are some examples: 

Early Years Alliance - Rhyme Time - A Day in the Life of a Caterpillar 

Early Years Alliance - Lewisham Children and Family Centres - Songs to sing with your baby 

Let’s Talk 

A Better Start Southend’s Let’s Talk suite of projects delivers support to parents around ways to develop their little one’s language and communication skills.

Each part of the suite is aimed at a different stage in the child’s development, from Babbling Babies and Little Listeners to Chatting Children.  

1,759 children have benefited from Let’s Talk to date, and in 2021 88% of participating parents reported that they had increased their confidence around talking to their child.  

We have worked with Speech and Language Therapy Teams to create ‘Top Tips’ for parents whose young children are starting school, which were shared via social media. 

This included creating some practical videos to help parents support their child in being confident to use language: 

School ready - Asking for help 

School Ready - Making Friends 

First and Foremost 

The Alliance delivers the First and Foremost project supporting speech and language development to narrow the gap at age five between disadvantaged children and their peers.

The Alliance provided resources for practitioners and parents, webinars, training modules, SMS hints and play cards for parents. 

Screening was delivered to 54 settings including Inset support and consultancy.  

Screening to 2,160 children, and direct outreach support to 540 families. 

The Alliance has given additional support and training to 36 settings to enable them to use the kit to screen 360 children in their own settings and continues to offer inset support and consultancy to support SLCN within settings. 

Provider feedback:

‘I found the screening so useful for our setting. It helped us think about the language we use, and the Big Book of ideas was great to support the children’s emerging language with so many ideas.’ 

Healthy Start 

We provide a wide range of cooking sessions to support and encourage families to prepare, cook and eat healthy meals together working towards reducing the number of obese children.  

Our educators are trained to deliver the evidence-based HENRY programme – both full family programmes and individual modules – to support families in leading healthy lifestyles, from aged four to age 11, in Lewisham and Bradford.  

Parent feedback on the HENRY ‘Starting Solids’ module:  

‘There is so much conflicting information about weaning and this workshop has given me the knowledge and confidence I need to be able to get it right and not to stress so much about how much he should be eating. I now know it’s just getting him used to trying different foods and textures and I understand about portion size too.’ 

Resource packs 

As part of our response to supporting families during the Covid-19 pandemic, we teamed up with local partner Creative Homes in SE London to develop themed resource packs which support families with their challenges in a fun and informative way. Each pack was themed and resourced to focus on a different area of life, safely delivered to parents, and were also linked to our weekly online virtual support packs included:  

  • Creative Chef – to support food poverty and nutrition, and support healthy lifestyles on a budget 
  • Routine Rebels – creating routines for families during our “New Normal” 
  • Baby Pack – supporting bonding and attachment for babies born during the pandemic  
  • Outdoor Adventure – helping wellbeing and managing isolation  
  • Play at home – creating fun ways to play and learn, without leaving the home 

100% of parents said the packs were a fun and playful way to help them to support their child’s development. 

‘The pack is so simple but has provided me with real support to feel confident in trying new things with my children. I truly believe I wouldn’t have done anything like this on my own. It has really helped us.’ 

We continue to develop new packs in partnership with Creative Homes, including Pregnancy packs and New Birth packs. 

Parenting programmes 

The Alliance has an experienced workforce in using the Solihull approach (including Solihull ante-natal) within both their everyday work and as additionally as a specialist parenting programme. 

One contact told us:  ‘I will be eternally grateful for the support you gave my son and girlfriend in trying to keep their son.... unfortunately, it didn’t work out for them even with all the support, they didn’t have the capacity to keep him and parent him safely.... the support you gave has remained for me as grandad and carer and it is invaluable, and I would truly be lost without you guys....’ 

Triple P 

Through the Positive Parenting Programme (Triple P) offer we have a range of workshops, drop-ins, groups, and programmes both face to face and on Zoom which parents can join if they need a bit of extra support. 

For parents of children aged 18 months –13 years this includes: 

  • blogs and top tips sheets available online and via our social media 
  • 1:1 Feeling Positive about Parenting Sessions – book a slot with a parenting practitioner to discuss any issues you have and look for solutions together 
  • Triple P Discussion groups – find ways of managing situations through discussion with other parents. Topics include bedtime routines, managing fighting and aggression, hassle free shopping and helping your child follow instructions. 
  • Triple P Group Primary – a 6/8 week course for parents of primary school aged children that offers positive parenting strategies to manage behaviour. 
  • Triple P Group Teen – a 6-week course that help prepare parents to raise teens. 

100% of families made progress in at least one area when attending a Triple P Group, with a particular strength in social networks and boundaries and routines. 

CYP IAPT Therapeutic Parenting Programmes  

Working with CAMHS, our CYP IAPT Therapeutic Parenting Programmes support parents to meet their child’s needs and improve behaviour for children with:  

  • serious, high risk or distressing behaviours 
  • conduct disorders 
  • oppositional defiance disorder 
  • and where ADHD might be suspected or diagnosed.

These programmes include: 

  • Incredible Years 12-week group programme for parents of children aged 4-11 years delivered both online and in person 
  • Personalised Individual Parent Training (PIPT) Intensive 1:1 support programme delivered over 6 sessions to children aged between 4-8 years and their parents. 


We have operated successfully multiple parental engagement and participation commissioned contracts in our children’s centres, baby and toddler support contracts and beyond. We generated new registrations increasing footfall, maintain attendance and enable parents to become part of the Advisory Boards and have a voice in steering and shaping services available to them. 

The services included working in partnership with health services to welcome new families into the centres and support the Early Help teams in engaging vulnerable families into services. This service is delivered through children’s centres, within schools and early years settings, and in outreach locations in the wider community, such as mother and baby hostels, parks and health clinics, and via home visiting.  

Where next?

Supporting vulnerable families

Volunteering, co-production and parental engagement

Our virtual offer


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