The ORIM blog

Using ORIM during the pandemic

Cathy Nutbrown
Professor of Education, School of Education, the University of Sheffield

23 July 2021

This blog is a tribute to the thousands of early years practitioners, leaders, and services that offered sustained support to families and their young children during the time of pandemic. Though by no means over, now does seem an appropriate time to reflect on what has been achieved beyond the tremendous feat of ‘keeping going’.

I have been honoured and humbled to learn of the work people have been doing, drawing on their sound professional knowledge, their instincts, their creativity, their ingenuity and commitment to maintaining services and contact with parents and young children.

Recently I attended Early Education’s online conference which focussed on lessons from the pandemic; presenters reflected on some of the positive lessons that came out of working under COVID-19 restrictions and regulations, and those lessons are summarised in my Early Education blog.

Here I want to highlight some of the work that members of the ORIM Network have been doing to continue contact and provision for parents and children.

Courses for professionals and parents were quickly adapted to online engagement, sustaining plans to facilitate work in many areas. To give just a few examples:

  • In Sandwell MBC, Saeeda Butt told us about online work with parents which she and her colleagues provided. For some, these online sessions were a vital point of connection as well as learning.

  • In Warwickshire, Jan Lennon and her team continued their work online, with live sessions for parents and children under five, including raising early achievement in literacy (REAL) and raising early achievement in maths (REAM) both of which focus attention on parents providing opportunities, recognition, interaction and models (ORIM).

  • In the North of England, colleagues working with Gill Holden of the National Children’s Bureau, were all set to develop home visiting as part of a randomised control trial of REAL project approaches to work with families, when, after just a few weeks, the first lockdown began in March 2020.

ORIM framework

Some developments included:

  • ‘Doorstep’ home visiting, including telling stories and singing rhymes in gardens.

  • The personal delivery of learning packs to families, providing books and other literacy resources.

  • Individual telephone and online contact with families maintaining contact, sharing ideas and offering advice.

All initiatives were well received by parents and children, and around the country such practices were developed to maintain human contact and support as well as enhance family learning initiatives.

Since May 2020 many members of the ORIM Network have been contributing to a book documenting the many examples of using ORIM and REAL approaches used before and during the pandemic, it will be published by Sage in early 2022 and we look forward to its launch. We are looking forward to resuming face-to-face connections in the future.