Help My Kid Learn

Country Profile: Ireland

Population

4.37 million

Official Languages

English and Irish

Total Expenditure on Education as % of GNP

4.7% (2005)

Access to Primary Education – Total Net Intake Rate (NIR)

Men: 98.8%
Women: 98.9%

Adult Literacy Rate (15-24 years)

PIAAC test results: percentage of adults scoring at each proficiency level in literacy (level 1 represents the lowest level of proficiency, level 5 the highest):

Below level 1: 4.3%
Level 1: 13.2%
Level 2: 37.6%
Level 3: 36.0%
Level 4: 8.1%
Level 5: 0.4%

Source: PIAAC 2012

Sources

Programme Overview

Programme TitleHelp My Kid Learn (www.helpmykidlearn.ie)
Implementing OrganizationNational Adult Literacy Agency (NALA)
Language of InstructionEnglish
FundingNALA core grant from the Department of Education and Skills through SOLAS, the further education and training authority.
Programme PartnersDepartment of Education and Skills and stakeholders from education, library and early years organizations.
Annual Programme Costs€64,000. Cost per learner: free
Date of Inception2012

Country Context

The Irish Government is currently attempting to improve family literacy in Ireland. In 2007, it introduced the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) programme, which addresses the educational needs of disadvantaged groups, and the National Action Plan for Social Inclusion 2007–2016, which aims ‘to reduce the proportion of pupils with serious literacy difficulties to less than 15% by 2016’ (NALA, 2012: 3). Improving educational attainment is an important issue in Ireland. The Irish Department of Skills and Education’s 2014 evaluation of the DEIS programme found that poor social skills among parents and children and a lack of parental involvement in children’s education were major barriers to pupil achievements (Weir, McAvinue, Moran and O’Flaherty, 2014). Family literacy plays a crucial role both in raising the literacy levels of parents and children and in improving overall educational equality. The family literacy website www.helpmykidlearn.ie, operated by the National Adult Literacy Agency, is an integral part of Ireland’s push to improve literacy attainment, and has encouraged a substantial number of parents to support their children’s education.

Programme Overview

The website provides activities, games and information parents can use to support the literacy development of their children. It is primarily aimed at parents and guardians, particularly those with literacy and numeracy needs. However, it can also be used by teachers and other practitioners working with children and families. The aim of the website is to:

Implemented in 2012 by the National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA), the website has had a major impact. In 2014 alone, it reached approximately 105,000 users. The activities, information and games on the website are aimed at the parents of children aged up to 12 years, and are organized, according to the age of the child, into five different sections. NALA worked with a range of stakeholders in developing and improving the site and works with third parties to provide additional content.

Aims and Objectives

The homepage

The homepage

The National Adult Literacy Agency aims to ensure that people with literacy and numeracy difficulties can play a full part in society and that they have access to learning opportunities that meet their needs. The agency has three main objectives:

The website was launched to contribute to meeting these objectives and to involve parents in their children’s literacy and numeracy development. The overarching goal of the website is to promote the educational attainment of both children and parents by supporting parents so that they can help their children learn.

The Help My Kid Learn programme is part of the wider Literacy and Numeracy for Learning and Life initiative launched by the Irish Department of Education and Skills in 2011. This wider programme includes a range of actions to enable parents and communities to support children’s learning. It recognizes that parental engagement in children’s learning has a significant positive impact on their educational achievement, especially in literacy and numeracy. The main objective of the Literacy and Numeracy for Learning and Life campaign is to:

…address significant concerns about how well our young people are developing the literacy and numeracy skills that they will need to participate fully in the education system, to live satisfying and rewarding lives, and to participate as active and informed citizens in our society. (Department of Education and Skills, 2011:7)

To support this aim, NALA developed a simple website bringing together all relevant information for parents and the wider community to support children’s literacy and numeracy development.

Programme Implementation

Teaching and Learning: Approaches and Methodologies

The Help My Kid Learn programme is a website that features fun activities and games that parents can do with their children to support their literacy and numeracy attainment. Based on a successful UK campaign and website ( www.wordsforlife.org.uk), Help My Kid Learn reaches out to parents with children aged up to 12 years old. The programme takes a self-learning approach. Parents look at the website for ideas. NALA facilitates learning tby promoting, maintaining and updating the website. To do so, NALA examines the different resources available to parents and provides them with relevant, age-appropriate resources, quickly. The activities are designed for the time they already have together, at home and when out and about together. A key message is that even when their own reading and writing skills are not well developed, they can still support their child’s learning. This concept has been embedded in the content of the website.

Programme Structure and Process

The website structures its information, tips, activities and games according to the age of the children. Within each age group, the features of the website are grouped by application: talk, play, read, write and count. The layout of the website is clear and simple so that it is easily accessible to parents. Users are able to find information and activities quickly as the site has only a few sub-menus. It is also very easy to print information or use the integrated search function.

Participants do not have to sign up to use the website. However, they can sign up for free monthly updates and top tips on supporting a child’s literacy and numeracy. Parents who are interested in participating with their children can do so at their own time and pace. When parents decide to undertake a learning activity with their children, they can click on the respective link on the website, which opens up the activity-specific pages. Here, participants see a brief introduction of the activity followed by an explanation about the learning purpose and benefits, called ‘Why am I doing this?’. In another section, ‘How can I do more?’ parents learn what they can do in addition to the activity to further support their children’s learning.

One example is ‘Taking Turns’, and activity which teaches children to have patience and learn how to deal with frustration and negative outcomes. The ‘Why am I doing this?’ section explains that playing games is an important means through which children improve their language skills, social skills and concentration. ‘How can I do more?’ lists a number of other games parents can play with their children that support learning.

Besides interactive games, the site features eBooks, links to other websites, short videos to watch together with children, links to online games, and apps for mobile devices. NALA partners with other education providers to provide these resources. For example, users can access the eBook Saint Brigid’s Cloak via the website askaboutireland.ie. Another example of collaboration is the activity ‘Telling the time’, which links to an external website that explains how to read the clock.

Monitoring and Evaluation

Participants can rate activities on a scale of one to five, which allows NALA to gather feedback from users on the quality of the learning activities. NALA keeps track of the amount of content per section to ensure that there is an even volume of suggestions for each age group in the Talk, Play, Read, Write and Count sections. In 2014, NALA conducted a survey on the site’s impact and people’s awareness of it.

Development of the Website

The website was developed with the technical help of a specialist company which understood NALA’s idea for an easy-to-use resource. The basic development idea was to create a website that would deliver tangible content to visitors in a user-friendly way with just three clicks. The development company also ensured the website was mobile phone enabled in the same way as other websites. This is important for parents who may not see themselves as computer literate but may still be using a smart phone. The initial content was developed over a period of approximately six months. A NALA staff member then worked full-time for a year to develop the content further. In August 2014, NALA outsourced content development for the website. NALA staff members continue to review content to assure its quality.

Following a low-key launch, NALA spent four months methodically taking feedback from stakeholders (such as the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment) on improving the site. Overall, it worked with 40 stakeholders during the initial phase of development and in getting the word out to parents and guardians. Stakeholder organizations included teacher bodies, early childhood development organizations, library bodies and community and statutory organizations. They identified and reviewed the content once the website went live, and encouraged their stakeholders to use it.

Impact and Challenges

Impact and Achievements

In 2014, Help My Kid Learn reached more than 105,000 users. With almost 65,000 users in the first half of 2015, the site is on track to surpass this number by the end of 2015. There was an average of 3,261 users per week in the first six months of 2015, representing a 30 per cent increase over the average number of 2,516 visitors per week in 2014. Around one-fifth of the site’s visitors return to the site.

Prior to 2015, the five-to-seven age group was the most popular among users followed by age three to four and zero to two. The eight-to-nine age group ranked fourth in 2014 but was the most popular age group in 2015. The following table presents user statistics for 2014 and the first six months of 2015.

2014 First six months of 2015
Number of users 105,781 64,546
Average per week 2,516 3,261
Sessions 130,869 78,260
Return users 20.9% 20.3%
Bounce rate 45.38% 50.97%
From www.education.ie 656 407
Subscribers to e-zine 1,289 (by 31.12.2014) 1,412 (on 19.6.2015)
% of visits from Ireland 62.9% 63.44%
Facebook likes 12,193 12,290
Peak days 6.1.2014 (638 sessions), 11.11.2014 (875) and 19.11.2014 (878) 23.3.2015 (653 sessions) and 8.6.2015 (682)

The programme reaches people in seven English-speaking countries, though 63 per cent of users come from Ireland. More than two-thirds (68 per cent) of Irish participants are located in Dublin.

Although there are no set out targets for website visitors, the Department of Education and Skills considers the programme to be generally fulfilling its aim of promoting the education of children and parents, due to the site’s large user base. NALA sends the department bi-annual reports on the website’s progress.

Testimonies demonstrate the site’s popularity with parents. A lifestyle website ranked it eighth on a list of 20 websites that ‘make your child smarter’ (www.lifehack.org/articles/technology/20-excellent-websites-that-make-your-children-smarter.html). This quote from a home school community liaison co-ordinator, drawn from a survey NALA carried out in May 2015. describes how helpful the programme has been: ‘It really has helped, in particular with maths. Junior and senior infant parents didn't think they could do anything at home to help but the pairing of the socks (…) and general tips for awareness in the home were fantastic’. An adult literacy organizer said that ‘it’s an extremely useful website. I have circulated the information to the local schools and find it a great resource for family learning’. After visiting the website, some parents may decide to embark on a more extensive learning process and link in with one of the community based family literacy programmes on offer.

One of the activities available online

One of the activities available online

Lessons Learned

Challenges and Sustainability

Maintaining and raising awareness of the website is important for the sustainability of the programme. In order to increase awareness, NALA has distributed promotion materials to schools, stakeholders, literacy resource centres and libraries. NALA is also regularly present at stakeholder events to promote the website. Other mechanisms to raise awareness are social media (Twitter, Facebook) and external websites which provide links to the website. In addition, users can sign up for a newsletter to receive more tips on children’s learning.

NALA also promoted the website through the television series, The Family Project, which was broadcast on Irish public television in 2013 and 2014 and encouraged viewers to go to www.helpmykidlearn.ie for more tips. During the first series, NALA partnered with libraries and county childcare committees to disseminate promotional materials (bookmarks, posters and fliers) to libraries and creches, parent and toddler groups and registered childminders. To further spread awareness, NALA is engaging with family literacy practitioners in local educational provision (Education and Training Boards) and with DEIS schools (located in disadvantaged areas) through the home school community liaison co-ordinators. As a result, 10 one-hour taster programmes for parents will take place during 2015 to introduce them to the website and encourage them to use it. NALA also secured sponsorship from a building society, for a ‘z-card’, a fold-out booklet the size of a credit card full of fun ideas for things parents can do with their children. The card directed people to the website.

NALA receives free AdWords advertising on Google thanks to a Google Ad Grant, which is available to charities. This is responsible for 42 per cent of site visitors. Organic search results are responsible for 39 per cent of visits. Ten per cent of users know the website name and visit it directly using the URL while 7 per cent are referred from other websites. The remaining 2 per cent come to the website vis social media and other sources.

Sources

Contact

Ms Margaret Murray
National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA)
Sandford Lodge
Sandford Close
Ranelagh, Dublin 6.
mmurray@nala.ie

Last update: 17 September 2015