Girl with out-stretched arms.

Why it works

Family Links is committed to research into the effectiveness of the Nurturing Programme. We invest in a dedicated research and evaluation department, and work with many partners to ensure rigorous evaluation and continuous measurement of our impact.

Download a copy of our 2016/17 Impact Report as a PDF

Please see below to find out about evidence from research into our programmes and examples of practice implementation throughout the UK.

10-week Nurturing Programme

Family Links is working with The Colebrooke Centre for Evidence and Implementation to improve our systems for measuring impact and developing the Nurturing Programme.

Family Links is committed to conducting and commissioning rigorous and innovative evaluations of our work with children, families and teachers. If you would like to find out more, get in touch at: research@familylinks.org.uk

You can find out more about our plans for research and evaluation by clicking on the “Latest Research” tab below.

The Colebrooke Centre logo

The Nurturing Programme has been awarded the CANparent Quality Mark which ensures that organisations running universal parenting classes are:

  • evidence based, monitored and evaluated to improve parent / child relationships and to make a positive difference
  • recommended by other parents
  • responsive, warm and relational, engaging with parents and building on these effective relationships to meet parents’ needs
  • run with integrity and have the appropriate professional systems in place
CAN Parent logo

Latest Research

Preview image of the Theory of Change diagram - click to view & download the full version

1. The Colebrooke Centre has published a paper outlining the Theory of Change for the 10-week Nurturing Programme.

This paper helps commissioners and parent group leaders and their managers understand the connections between the design of the 10-week Nurturing Programme and the expected outcomes for parents. Download the full paper.

The paper describes the links between the programme specification and the evidence base about what works in parenting support. These links are visualised in a summary graphic, Family Links 10-week Nurturing Programme: Theory of Change

2. Family Links is undertaking a content review of the 10 week programme, to take account of findings of this work and best practice that has developed over the past few years.

This part of Family Links’ ongoing work involves refining the programme in the light of the most recent evidence. The content review began in May 2016, and included consultations with practitioners and researchers.

Research Papers

Villadsen, A. (2015). Parent and child mental health outcomes of the Family Links 10 Week Nurturing Programme for Parents.

The reduction in child total difficulties was very significant with a reduction in conduct problems and hyperactivity identified as the biggest change. The proportion of children with clinical levels of difficulties also reduced significantly from 43% to 28%. Parents’ mental health also improved: from a starting point of a much lower score than the general population, moving up to a level that was only marginally lower than the national norm. These findings suggest that the Programme is highly effective in improving mental health outcomes for both children and their parents.
Download a copy of the Parent and Child Mental Health Outcomes Report as a PDF

Villadsen, A. (2015). Parenting Self-Efficacy before and after the Family Links 10-Week Nurturing Programme for Parents.

Using the reliable Tool to Measure Parenting Self-Efficacy (TOPSE), parents looked at 8 different dimensions to understand the level of self-efficacy(self-belief) in their parenting. The 8 dimensions include: emotion and affection, play and enjoyment, empathy and understanding, control, discipline and boundary setting, pressures of parenting, self-acceptance, and learning and knowledge. Findings showed that the levels of self-efficacy in parenting greatly increased after attending the Programme, with significant and positive changes across all 8 dimensions.
Download a copy of the Parenting Self-Efficacy Report as a PDF

Ghate, D. (2015). The Family Links Nurturing Programme – Findings and recommendations from a strategic review and development project, Extended summary 3: Developing and Testing of an Overarching Impact Measure. Oxford: Family Links.

This report describes the research undertaken to develop and test the overarching impact of the Family Links 10-week Nurturing Programme (FLNP). This research represents the fourth stage of an overall review undertaken by the Colebrooke Centre, which started in 2013 and completed in 2015.
Download a copy of the report on the Development and Testing of an Overarching Impact Measure as a PDF

Ghate, D. (2015). The Family Links Nurturing Programme – Findings and recommendations from a strategic review and development project, Extended summary 2: Reviewing the Theory of Change for the Nurturing Programme . Oxford: Family Links.

This report outlines the theory and essential components of the Family Links 10-week Nurturing Programme for Parents (FLNP). Based on work started by the Colebrooke Centre in 2013 and utilising a five stage approach, this report on the work on the Theory of Change represents the third stage of the overall review.
Download a copy of the report reviewing the Theory of Change for the Nurturing Programme as a PDF – 0.9 MB

Scourfield, J. et al. (2014). A process evaluation of the Family Links Islamic Values course for Muslim fathers.

A report looking at the outcomes of parents attending the Nurturing Programme with Islamic Values found that over half the parents were unlikely to have attended a regular parenting programme; parents highly valued the content and helpfulness of the programme.
Download a copy of the Process Evaluation of the Islamic Values course as a PDF

Simkiss, D. E. et al. (2013). Effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of a universal parenting skills programme in deprived communities: multicentre randomised controlled trial

A Randomised Control Trial of the 10-week Nurturing Programme was commissioned by City of Cardiff Council (supported by the Welsh Assembly Government) in 2008 and reported in 2011. The study – that was conducted independently in South Wales communities – was unusual in that the programme was offered universally, rather than to parents on a waiting list for intervention. The results were inconclusive, neither the ‘treatment allocated’ nor ‘per protocol’ analyses conducted by the research team yielding statistically significant results, even though they tended to favour the Nurturing Programme over the control group.

Roker, D. (2011). An evaluation of Family Links training in the Nurturing Programme.

Trainees rated the Nurturing Programme training very highly overall – 80.1% rated it 10, on a scale of 1-10 where 10 was ‘extremely useful’. The average for all participants was 9.7.
Download a copy of the evaluation report of Family Links training in the Nurturing Programme as a PDF

Practice Evidence

Hertfordshire County Council

Hertfordshire County Council

In 2010-2011 Hertfordshire County Council found that referrals to social care had been significantly reduced following the use of the Family Links Nurturing Programme as an early intervention tool.

University of Worcester

The institute of Education at the University of Worcester

The Institute of Education at the University of Worcester found strong evidence that the Family Links Nurturing Programme is delivering positive outcomes as an early intervention tool for parents as well as evidence that the gains for parents are sustainable in the longer term.

Bradford Metropolitan District Council

Bradford Metropolitan District Council

Bradford MDC reported that the Nurturing Programme kept parents engaged and that more parents completed the course when compared to other early intervention programmes.

Cardiff Flying Start

Cardiff Flying Start

Cardiff Flying Start measured over 300 parents’ levels of self-belief in their ability to parent before and after attending a 10-week Nurturing Programme Parent Group. Parents’ self-efficacy greatly increased after attending a parent group and there were positive and significant changes in every one of the dimensions of parenting measured.

Welcome to the World

The ‘Welcome to the World’ programme is an 8-week group for parents expecting a baby.

Aims of the programme:

  • improving attunement and bonding
  • improving parental wellbeing
  • improving knowledge and skills in breast-feeding and practical care of babies.  
CANparent Quality mark

The Welcome to the World programme has been awarded the CANparent Quality Mark. Organisations that belong to the CANparent network have proven that each of their classes makes a real and positive difference to parents and families.

Research Papers

Jones, C., Jomeen, J., Wadephul, F. (2016). Evaluation of Welcome to the World. (University of Hull)

This report outlines the findings from an evaluation of the Family Links’ 8-week “Welcome to the World” programme. Results showed that parents were displaying a more positive attitude to their baby, an increase in perceived coping, and improvements in psychological wellbeing. Findings from focus groups suggest that the programme was perceived as positive and helpful by parents, and had a positive impact on their interaction with their babies, their relationship with their partner, their post-natal coping, and on their emotional wellbeing.

Download the full evaluation report

Kidd-Rossiter, K., Yang, Y.J., & Harris, D. (2015). ‘Welcome to the World’ Antenatal Programme: Analysis of Data from March 2014 to June 2015 (Outcome report).

111 parents in 28 settings around the UK, using Parenting Antenatal Self-Efficacy (TOPSE),
Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale (WEMWBS) & Maternal Antenatal Attachment Scale (MAAS).

Parental wellbeing (WEMBS)

  • On average, parents mental well-being scores increased by 2.42 points. This increase is statistically significant.
  • Mothers’ mental well-being scores increased, on average, by 2.44 points. This increase is statistically significant.
  • Fathers’ mental well-being scores increased, on average, by 2.31 points. This increase is statistically significant.
Bar chart: Welcome to the World WEMBS mean scores (2015)
Bar chart: Welcome to the World WEMBS mean scores by gender (2015)

Parental attachment (MAAS, PAAS)

  • On average, mother’s global attachment scores increased by 4.22 points
  • Mothers’ quality of attachment scores increased by 2.77 points
  • Mother’s intensity of preoccupation increased by 2.77 points
  • Fathers’ global attachment scores increased by 5.02 points
Bar chart: Welcome to the World MAAS scores (2015)
Bar chart: Welcome to the World PAAS scores (2015)

Download the full Outcome Report for the Welcome to the World Programme 2014-15 here

Practice Evidence

Outcomes in Northern Ireland

Mary Duggan is a Sure Start Health Visitor, supporting families from deprived areas of Northern Ireland for 27 years. In the past year she initiated the delivery of the Welcome to the World programme, recording a 100% attendance.

Results included:

  • Parents were more likely to reach out for support
  • Friendships made during the programme were maintained
  • Decrease in social isolation
  • Increase in breastfeeding rates
  • Greater parenting confidence

Parenting Puzzle Workshops

Research Report

Harris, E. (2016). Parenting self-efficacy before and after the Family Links 4-week Parenting Puzzle Workshop

Parents were asked about eight dimensions of parenting to measure their view of their parenting self-efficacy. These dimensions are: emotion and affection, play and enjoyment, empathy and understanding, control, discipline and boundaries, pressures, self-acceptance, learning and knowledge.

Results of pre and post scores from 70 parents showed a significantly positive increase for each of the eight dimensions, with the overall difference being highly significant.

TOPSE (Tool to Measure Parenting Self-Efficacy) scale pre and post programme score:

PPW report - TOPSE pre and post scores bar chart

Download the full report for the Parenting Puzzle Workshops – 1MB

Talking Teens Programme

We are currently evaluating the impact of the Talking Teens workshops and will add all new information as it is completed.

Here’s some feedback from parents:
View feedback summary as a PDF

Nurturing Schools Network

Nurturing Schools Network logo

We equip trainee teachers with skills and strategies that help them achieve the highest levels of performance as outlined by teacher standards and the Ofsted Framework.

  • Trainee teachers felt twice as confident in dealing with challenging behaviour
  • 60% increase in the number of trainee teachers who felt confident giving constructive feedback
  • Trainee teachers’ measured performance improved for behaviour management; setting high expectations and creating a good and safe classroom environment
  • Significant improvements in teacher wellbeing; particularly for newly qualified teachers (NQTs)

Research papers

Teach First

Family Links has been working in partnership with Teach First since 2008. We regularly monitor the effectiveness of our work:

Bar chart: reflections of Teach First Primary Participants following four Family Links workshops.


Bar chart: How frequently have Teach First Primary Participants used Family Links strategies.

Work in schools

  • A longitudinal study in 2013 of the impact of the Developing Emotional Resilience workshops, formerly called the Transforming Learning workshops on trainee teachers: This study looked at how a 1-day Family Links skills workshop improved the confidence of trainee teachers in dealing with challenging behaviour in the classroom.
  • Staff and Pupil Perspectives: This report by the Research and Evaluation Unit of Hampshire’s Educational Psychology Service assessed staff and pupil views on the usefulness of the approach, including children’s ratings of Circle Time.
  • Sustaining Emotional Literacy: an evaluation of the medium to long-term impact of the programme in schools. This evaluation considered how the programme had been adopted and adapted within several schools and its impact on children, professionals and school culture – including the way in which the language had helped the whole school community to have a common way of discussing feelings and behaviour.

Blackbird Trust Academy (Oxford)

A 2 year study of the Nurturing Schools programme in an academy chain. Some of the findings were a significant decrease in childrens’ behaviour difficulties and significant increase in prosocial behaviour.

Download full evaluation as a PDF – 1 MB

Research Report: Evaluation of Family Links Transforming Learning Workshops, delivered as part of Initial Teacher Education at Oxford Brookes University

This report outlines the findings from an evaluation of the Family Links Transforming Learning Workshops, delivered as part of Initial Teacher Education at Oxford Brookes University. 27 PGCE students from Oxford Brookes University, recruited on the basis of lower performance on the first of three required school placements, completed the Transforming Learning Workshops at three points throughout the academic year. Results show that following the Transforming Learning Workshops, self-reported teacher efficacy increased in all four key areas: learning environment, praise and reward, behaviour management and personal power, with the greatest increase in learning environment.

Download full report as a PDF – 1 MB

Practice evidence

Vaughan School

Vaughan School is a popular and now oversubscribed primary school in Harrow, Middlesex. The school has been using the Nurturing Schools Network programme, formerly called Family Links Programme since 2005.

The values of the Nurturing Schools Network programme occupy a central role in the operations of the school. Prominent on the school’s website is the declaration that it aims to be ‘a community of learners where there is an atmosphere of mutual and self-respect in which everyone is valued and nurtured.’

The school had clear goals in mind when it adopted Family Links – to encourage emotional and social wellbeing in the school and so create a climate in which everyone, children and staff, can flourish to the full extent of their potential.

Sue Nilsson says, We are proud of the way our children behave. Children and staff speak to each other with respect, and within the school there is a marked absence of shouting.

There is no ambiguity about the value Vaughan School has derived from Family Links. Introducing and sustaining the Programme has allowed the school to boost teachers and children by helping to improve classroom behaviour and remove barriers to educational attainment.

New College School

New College School is a prep school with 160 boys in the centre of Oxford. The school has implemented the Nurturing Schools Network programme in a structured and consistent manner with regular refresher days. The result is that the Programme has had a significant and sustained impact on the climate within New College School, leading to what Robert Gullifer describes as “an improved and improving emotional atmosphere.”

The collective reward system has captured the imagination of the school. Individual pupils are highly motivated by the idea of contributing to the wellbeing of the whole class. This encourages the pupils to strive hard individually while feeling that, in Robert Gullifer’s words, their efforts are connecting with something bigger.

Boys need encouragement to be kind to each other, concludes Robert Gullifer. A central benefit of the Nurturing Schools Network programme has been to help create and foster a school environment where everyone treats each other with kindness and respect.

All of our programmes benefit from the Implementation Support service

Family Links is committed to helping our partners achieve the best possible outcomes from their service provision, and support best practice in the implementation of parenting support for all Family Links Programmes.

* Telephone and email support for all trained practitioners * Access to an online area with additional resources, handouts and leaflets * Free processing of data from parent groups, and personalised reports for facilitators * Regular newsletters with up-to-date research and best practice examples * Professional development opportunities via refresher courses * Access to a wide range of resources via our online shop * Regular regional meetings * Follow-on training and professional development training opportunities

If you’d like to find out more, please email: Parenting Team OR Education Team