Family Journey, Rochdale

Themes this local practice example relates to:

  • Families, Parents and Carers

Organisation submitting example

Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council

Local authority/local area:



Family Journey is a parenting programme (written in manuals) which supports families from the antenatal point until their child begins education.  It provides support to parents at 12 age-paced stages, to help them meet their child’s needs.   The programme’s messages are reinforced through children’s centre sessions and practical support for the home learning environment.

Context and rationale

The idea was to offer a parenting programme beginning at the ante-natal stage and progressing through to entry to school.  We wanted to give parents support at key stages of their child’s development on the practicalities of being a parent. At the same time we wanted to develop peer support networks between the parents attending the sessions in order to encourage them to provide emotional support for each other and to strengthen local communities.  It had been recognised through an early years’ pilot with a focus on the readiness for school agenda, through the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA), that the earlier parents are supported the better the outcomes for their children and that early help would prevent problems developing and save money in the long term.  

The sessions would be informative, yet informal, supportive but not encouraging dependency, and would support public service reform. This would be achieved by addressing key issues e.g. child accident prevention guidance to reduce A and E attendance, information to reduce child obesity, and messages to encourage breastfeeding up to 6 weeks and beyond.   We were keen to prevent dependency in parents on professional intervention in the home and wanted to give them the strategies as soon as possible to help themselves or to get their own professional help by signposting to relevant agencies. We also wanted the content of the sessions to be written by professionals in the field, to be delivered consistently in a cost effective way, and to address the particular needs of the communities within the Borough.  Since the children’s centres in Rochdale provide the location for all ante-natal and post-natal care, they were chosen to be the location for the delivery of the programme.  A parenting programme, Family Journey was created by a range of professionals and delivered in Rochdale from 16 April 2012.


We were aware that many children were assessed at the two year health visitor check and 

then not formally assessed until the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (EYFSP).  Since nursery is not currently a statutory provision, unless issues are identified by health visitors when they complete the Schedule of Growing Skills (SoGS) assessment at two years old, potential development gaps in children may not be identified until the child begins school.  Children’s centres were seen as being the ideal provision to launch a parenting programme supporting parenting skills and also impacting on the learning and development of children.   Since the introduction of Family Journey we have become involved in work on an integrated eight stage assessment model which is being developed across Greater Manchester through AGMA.

Learning from the EPPE research was applied that showed ’what parents do is more important than who parents are’ and it was recognised that there was also a need to impact on children’s learning through the home learning environment and the quality of parent/child interaction.

Knowledge Base

We were aware from the Total Place work in Sandbrook that there is a high level of transience in this area of Rochdale, for example in one school year on average 10% of children leave during the academic year and 13% are new arrivals.  This is indicative of the movement of families into and out of the area. The Leksand model (DfE/DoH, (2011). Supporting families in the foundation years)was used as the foundation for the structure of Family Journey. One important adaptation was that we recognised the need in our community to extend the organised offer beyond the child’s first birthday to the time when the child starts school in order to give the child the very best start and also to best serve the transient local community.   The Leksand model was “designed to replace the lost ‘extended family’ around a newborn” so once again fulfilled an identified need for our parents.   The Leksand model has all the elements that we recognised we needed to include in our Family Journey:

  • To build up cohesion in groups
  • To improve parental knowledge
  • To increase knowledge and awareness of children’s needs
  • To increase parental knowledge and awareness of support services.

Evidence Base for the Family Tracker Sheet

The Effective Provision of Pre-School Education Project (EPPE). A longitudinal study funded by the DFES 1997-2004.

The home learning element of Family Journey is securely based on the strong evidence from the EPPE research.  This found that ‘aspects of home learning environment experienced by children during the preschool period continue to show significant positive effects on attainment and social behaviour at age 7 years plus.’ (page 43). These home learning aspects include ‘frequency parents reported reading to child, teaching songs and nursery rhymes, painting and drawing, playing with letters and numbers, visiting the library, teaching alphabet, teaching numbers.’ (page 50).  All these elements have been included in the Family Tracker Sheet introduced at the core sessions and reinforced and assessed weekly at linked sessions.

The Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-Being Scale (WEMWBS). (Tennant, et al., 2007. Health and Quality of Life Outcomes).

The WEMWBS scale links well to two of the aims of Family Journey, and is already used by some health practitioners and community champions in Rochdale, so is the ideal tool to measure well-being and use as an evidence base for the programme. 

The ORIM (Opportunities, Recognition, Interaction, Model) Framework (Hannon, P. (1995).

Literacy, home and school: research and practice in teaching literacy with parents)

The ORIM framework identifies ways that families can help develop their child’s early literacy skills through skilful interaction and experiences.  These interaction skills are included as prompts for parents on the Family Tracker Sheet and discussed by key practitioners as part of Family Journey. See

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