Project Details

Page last updated: 21st August 2012

Elaine Duddy

Degree of Parent Participation in Sure Start Northern Ireland (NI): Parents’ perspectives of it’s facilitators and barriers; parental contribution and impact on outcomes

Dates: January 2011, ongoing
Department: UNESCO Centre, School of Education, Faculty of Social Sciences
Supervisor(s): Dr Diane Hazlett, Dr Jackie Lambe

This project aims to add new knowledge to the social science sector regarding parents as service users within the arena of Early Intervention services. Early Years education is currently under review by the Northern Ireland Executive with Sure Start (Northern Ireland) costing £16million in 2008–09. Sure Start will provide the context for this study. Empirical evidence exists of a causal link between parent participation and outcomes for families (NESS, 2005) in this context. However parent participation is voluntary therefore it is essential that parents are effectively engaged in order to optimise service engagement with the child and family. To date research has indicated that participation varies extensively in the degree of participation experienced (Pemberton and Mason, 2008). Analysis of the causes of this variation have, to date, focussed quantitatively on extrinsic barriers to participation with limited focus on an individual’s capacity to participate (Mendez et al, 2009).

This project aims to build on current research regarding the practical, structural, social and attitudinal barriers to participation (Katz et al, 2007) by adopting a qualitative approach to gathering and analysing parents’ perspectives on participation and their attitudes to it; their perception of barriers and facilitators to participation; their perception of their contribution to participation and their assessment of the impact of their participation on outcomes for their children, themselves and families. This study aims to develop new knowledge on effective engagement with parents to ensure optimal service outcomes for them and their families.

This study will use a two–stage, mixed methods, cross‑sectional design based on an interpretive phenomenological theoretical approach as follows:

  • Phase 1: Secondary analysis of service records database to establish patterns of participation across Northern Ireland
  • Phase 2: Focus groups with three subject groups: Registered Non‑active; Registered Active and Registered Active Engaged

This study aims to inform the discussion on accessing and engaging with “hard‑to‑reach” families, the discussion on service development with a specific focus on the contribution made by parents and harnessing that contribution to enhance engagement as well as informing the wider discussion on wellbeing, social exclusion and poverty.

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Contact Details

Elaine Duddy


PhD Student