Tips by Text

Evaluation Report

Stokes L, Dawson A, Williams C, Alexander K, Akehurst G, Manzoni C, Runge J, Xu L  |   | Education Endowment Fund | Apr 2022

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Tips by Text seeks to improve children’s literacy, language, numeracy, and socio-emotional skills by providing information and strategies that empower parents and encourage them to do more developmental activities, such as introducing children to new words when doing household tasks at home or counting the number of cars they pass on the way home from school.

The intervention was universal and open to all parents and children in Reception year. Target children were aged four to five in Reception year and because of delays due to the Covid-19 pandemic this intervention also continued into the first term of Year 1 when children were aged five to six. A total of 109 schools took part in the trial.

Key conclusions

  • Tips by Text took place in an unprecedented time, and the results of the evaluation need to be interpreted with this in mind. Not only did the trial experience significant attrition (approximately 70%), as far fewer post-tests could be completed due to Covid-19, but children experienced substantial disruption to their education and lives during this time, in a way that could not have been envisaged at the start of the evaluation.
  • With the above caveat in mind, children whose parents received the Tips by Text programme showed no additional progress on a measure of literacy skills compared with children whose parents had not received the programme. There was also no statistically significant impact of the programme on children’s socio-emotional outcomes.
  • Amongst pupils eligible for free school meals, the estimated effect size for literacy skills was equivalent to one month’s additional progress. However, this was not statistically significant and should be interpreted with caution.
  • Parents reported that the texts were useful, were delivered at the right frequency, and that they were pitched at the right level with appropriate content. Most parents were using the tips but were cautious when describing impacts due to it being hard to attribute change due to the Covid-19 pandemic. A small number of parents felt that the texts were similar to what they were already doing with their children and did not use them. Teachers were unable to comment on impacts as they were not involved in the delivery of the programme.
  • Parents’ phone numbers changed regularly—this will need to be considered in any potential future roll-out, as this could be quite burdensome on schools to keep updated.