The Pre-school Learning Alliance

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About the Pre-school Learning Alliance

The Pre-school Learning Alliance is an educational charity which represents and supports 16,000 community pre-schools in England. It runs family literacy programmes and supports pre-schools in setting up such schemes. It recognises parents are a child's first educator and, although they usually come to a programme because they want to help their child, they often then realise that they would like to develop their own learning. Opportunities for this may then be provided in-house, or by letting parents know what is available locally. The charity points out that when offering an in-house course, pre-schools should consider whether parents can already read and write - including being able to read leaflets about the programme - and speak English; the best time of day to run the programme and whether religious festivals would prevent people from attending; and the importance of letting parents know what will happen and what will be expected of them, so that they are not intimidated.

Campaign: changing lives changing life

Changing lives changing life is the Pre-school Learning Alliance's campaign to address the current shortage of childcare places in all parts of the country, including areas outside of Sure Start but where children are still living in poverty. As a strand of the campaign, the charity will contribute to the Government's review by supplying evidence from within pre-schools and by briefing MPs and others about the needs of poorer families. Part of the campaign is that all early years settings should be supported to offer a range of opportunities for parents, including drop-in and advice centres, classes, courses and social events, as a way of strengthening communities. This would be secured by the introduction of 'A Charter for Parents and the Early Years'.


Jump Start is an awareness raising programme for family learning. It offers one-off workshops which raise awareness of how pre-schools support literacy development, give parents strategies for supporting their children with literacy, and give parents information about progression routes for their own learning. Jump Start is offered through a framework which includes time for parents to work together with their children and to reflect on what they have learned, as well as practical activities which can underpin literacy development. The programme is accessible to parents who are reluctant to take up learning opportunities, as it offers small, secure steps. Sessions are designed to be fun and interactive, and parents and children make games, puppets and books together.

Looking at Learning Together is a resource pack for a course that offers adults the opportunity to improve their understanding of how children learn, while encouraging them to think of themselves as learners. The course can be delivered by pre-school leaders, tutors or other facilitators. The pack consists of notes for the person delivering the sessions, ideas sheets to support the activities and worksheets for adults. It emphasises the importance of positive feedback as a motivating factor and a way of supporting parents in their learning. In six two-hour sessions, parents and carers look at:

It is hoped that the course will encourage parents to become more involved in their children's pre-schools, which will support the child's education and may lead to other forms of education and training for the parent.

Shadow Puppets is a programme of six sessions designed to develop language through social interaction using creative activities, as a precursor to developing literacy skills. Parents and children are invited to create their own puppets with which to practise everyday interactions and responses, and the programme also uses music, singing, dance and story as ways of developing children's oracy skills. Each activity includes some of the components of language acquisition, such as building self-esteem and confidence, communication skills, listening, turn-taking and emotional awareness.

The programme also offers the opportunity to develop the role of parent mentor. Parent mentors chat to other parents about Shadow Puppets and encourage them to get involved in the sessions. They support parents during the activities and encourage them to try out the oracy activities at home.


For more information visit For more on the changing lives changing life campaign visit


An article on running family programmes, and on their benefits, appeared in the April 2003 edition of the magazine Under Five, produced by the Pre-school Learning Alliance.

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