Using ORIM with Families in Early Years Settings

Keeping in touch: The ORIM Network 2020

Our annual ORIM Network Day on 14th May, 2002 had to take a different form from usual. Instead of meeting together in Sheffield, those who could, met online with Cathy and Kay during the day on 14th and 15th May.  It was good to catch up. Thank you to colleagues for sharing their work through the Network.

So far, 2020 has been a time when parents’ roles in their children’s learning have been brought into sharp focus, and the skills of those professionals who have  been working for many years to share theory and practice with parents are now much needed. There can’t be a time when engagement with home learning has been more important! Here are some of the ideas that were shared and comments that colleagues wanted to send to you all.


ORIM Network catch up with Jan Lennon and the Family Learning Programme, Adult and Community Learning, Warwickshire County Council

“ This year we have adapted ORIM for more exciting projects including work with foster carers, and, since ‘lockdown’, ways of working with families remotely in their homes. We will miss the Network Day as we love catching up with colleagues and sharing ideas but will use the ORIM website to communicate and to refresh our thinking. ORIM is a vehicle for explaining learning to parents that is more important than ever at the moment. Best wishes to everyone and hope to see you next year!”
 Jan Lennon  (and the team) at Warwickshire CC Adult and Community Learning Services.

Jan and the Adult and the Community Learning Team and Jan Dawson, Curriculum Manager, met with Cathy Nutbrown  and Kay Davies to discuss the latest initiatives from Warwickshire. Here are some of the key points:

  • Up until March 2020 the Early Years’ learning courses were attracting a lot of parents to learn about the home learning environment. This included innovative courses on “Food and Reading” and partnership work with Foster Carers ( based on the initial inspiration of Saeeda Butt’s team’s work in Sandwell). One of the latest projects was “Film Club” which was a presentation showing parents how, by watching a film with their children, they could ask questions that would develop their children’s literacy, numeracy and thinking skills. With the restrictions brought on by the COVID crisis, the face to face courses had to stop but some were able to continue using zoom meetings.
  • The team made the point that many families in economically disadvantaged communities are feeling overwhelmed by the pandemic and all the practical difficulties this can raise. The team have been active in targeting support in areas of need and of thinking about adapting the ORIM models around appropriate activities for children and families which don’t require special resources. For example, on the Nuneaton based project, ideas for home learning around the theme of “Going for a Walk” have been developed with the message to parents that it is safe to take their young children outside to walk, talk and to learn! Families have appreciated this supportive input.
  • Jan asked Cathy for an update on her work with ORIM and Cathy talked about updates from the FLiP projects(programmes for imprisoned parents led by Debbie Hornbuckle at Pact) , the NCB ongoing research work into the benefits of home visiting in the Reception Year (Ellie Suggate Francis , Gill Holden and Helen Wheeler at the NCB)and the possibility of collection ‘stories and research’ about ORIM for a potential new publication. This would include theoretical underpinnings and case studies. Jan and the team were very keen to share their work.
  • Jan Dawson said that she really valued the team’s links with Sheffield University and Professor Nutbrown and she talked about one of the latest projects was “Film Club”. She was very impressed with the team and the way that they are ‘very agile at finding out how the parents need to be supported and then adapting approaches to fulfil that need.’ Cathy agreed that the unpacking of how to use a film for early learning was very interesting.
  • “Learning in lockdown” was a theme throughout the discussion and it was agreed that a broader understanding of ‘what learning is’ is needed to be shared and supported with the parents. “Giving our parents ways of thinking about learning in a way that they might not have done before,” was both a message for Lockdown and a continuing part of the ORIM journey!

With thanks to: Jan Lennon, Jan Dawson, Kat McDade, Cheryl Neil, Jo Parvez, Lisa Tytler,  Catherine West  and Lynn Hussain.


Zohra Dabhad  (Manager) from the Hikmat Nursery, Dewsbury updates us on their work

“ We are missing the Network Day because we enjoy coming each year to meet Cathy and to  see our regular colleagues! Each year we get different memories and things to try out. It’s great that the Network has run over several years now and we feel a connection there! It reminds us why we are doing the learning that we do with families and the difference that it makes. We want to keep connected with everybody and will do that through the ORIM website! Hope to see everyone next year. Best wishes from Zohra and the teams at Al Noor, Blenheim, Hikmat and The Park nurseries !”
Zohra Dabhad, Hikmat Nursery, Dewsbury

Zohra and colleagues at the Dewsbury nurseries have integrated the ORIM approach into their planning and thinking across all 4 settings. Particular projects this year have been:

  • Implementing the ‘Dads’ Day’ Learning at the Blenheim nursery. This used the Al Noor model and adapted it for the different cohort of children and parents at the Blenheim setting. This proved very popular with fathers and mothers!
  • At the newly opened Hikmat Nursery, parents were encouraged to attend ORIM information sessions on “How to Read with Your Child” where the staff modelled possible ways of sharing books and talking about stories and rhymes. This was proving very successful and will be continued when the Nursery returns after ‘lockdown’.

All of the nurseries are very keen to promote an inclusive and family friendly approach to learning in the home environment where parents don’t feel ‘judged’ and share their experiences of home learning with  the setting and with each other. Zohra, Safira, Sania, Farhana, Feroza and Zaynab and all the staff are looking forward to sharing their ideas and to listening to the stories from other colleagues at next year’s Network Meeting!


An ORIM Network Day message from Silvia Sermon, Learning Support Assistant (SEN 1:1) Wednesbury Oak Academy Tipton

“I have really missed the ORIM network day which I keep calling “My annual CPD booster”. I love the atmosphere and being in the midst of enthusiastic colleagues who are so willing to share excellent practice as well as being so keen to learn from each other. It doesn’t matter where and in which position you are working, you are part of a very special group where everyone is valued.

I have taken so much learning away each time I have attended an ORIM network meeting and have put some of it into practice in a number of ways. I hope it won’t be too long until we meet again.”
– Silvia Sermon, Learning Support Assistant, Wednesbury Oak Academy Tipton

Silvia is a regular and thoughtful contributor to the ORIM Network Days and had booked to come again this year. Throughout the pandemic, Silvia has been working in school with children of key workers and has been trying to think of ways of engaging the children enthusiastically with their learning! She is planning on using her after school guitar club techniques, through the ORIM framework, to the Year 1 children. ORIM seems a suitable framework for the planning. Singing outside and at a social distance ( risk assessments are still being completed) she has planned:

Opportunities to listen to music (including songs that are unknown to the children) and to sing joyfully! Opportunities to collaborate and have fun together.

Recognition that we can have favourite songs and rhymes that we are familiar with and that make us feel happy

Interactions with words, rhythms and rhymes that are fun and bring a smile unto our faces

Modelling – the staff will model the above but will encourage and welcome interactions and suggestions by the children.

Silvia has chosen a repertoire of hope- including chart songs, songs from the 1980’s and songs from musicals


Sandwell Foster Carers Update: Training for Foster Carers 2020/2021

Saeeda Butt, Parents as Partners in Early Learning Manager for Sandwell Quality Early Years and Childcare Services and Sharon Osmond, Early Years Foundation Lead for the LACE have continued to increase joined up working by the following steps:

  • Sharing data on where Children in Care (LAC) are receiving Early Years provision.
  • Working with Sandwell Data Intelligence on the Good Level of Development (GLD) for Children in Care in and outside the borough
  • Introducing Chat, Play, Read Home visits to targeted group of Reception Aged Children in Care, in need of additional support and their Foster carers.
  • Increasing the profile of training with the Sandwell Children’s Trust.
  • The training materials have been updated in line with Sandwell’s Communication and Language Pathway.
  • Programmes identified support School Readiness.
  • Partnership working with the Sandwell Library Service where National Bookstart allocation of resource packs for LACE so all eligible Children in Care receives a Bookstart Pack.

The essential theme flowing through all the training identified to be delivered is to influence the home learning environment for our children in care which meant that we must build on our Foster Carers experiences, knowledge, skills and practice.

In addition to our Children in Care achieving their GLD, we wanted the children to be at their expected level of development for communication and language details of Sandwell’s  intervention programmes are here.


Cathy and Kay thank everyone for sending in their updates, please keep them coming!

You can get in touch and send  your own comments or updates to ORIM@sheffield.ac.uk. We look forward to hearing from you.

The ORIM Network is open to all interested in work with parents using REAL approaches and the ORIM Framework who wish to share their expertise and ideas.

Thank you and hope to see you in Sheffield next year!

Stay Safe


You can download the latest research paper here:
Hannon,P.,Nutbrown,C. and Morgan,A. (2019):Effects of extending disadvantaged families’ teaching of emergent literacy, Research Papers in Education



Latest additions to the website

Family Literacy in Prisons

Watch the animation of our work in collaboration with Pact (Prison Advice and Care Trust) about the FLiP programme.

Thank you to Debbie Hornbuckle and Pact for making this lovely film!

The film can be viewed here.



Professor Peter Hannon talks about the development of the ORIM framework and the original REAL Project

Peter responded to some questions that practitioners have raised about the REAL (Raising Early Achievement in Literacy) Project and the ORIM Framework.

He talks about:

  • the importance of home visiting
  • the origins of the ORIM Framework
  • the effectiveness of REAL approaches
  • families’ engagement with REAL project ideas around early literacy development

Many thanks to Peter for making this film. It can be viewed here.

Early Literacy Work with Families

This film was made in 1996 at the beginning of the Original REAL Project.  Though fashions and technologies change, the ORIM Framework has stood the test of time.

You can view the film, useful for professional development courses to introduce the ORIM Framework, hereORIM1996.

Follow The ORIM Network on Twitter @ORIMnetwork and tweet about your use of the ORIM framework using the hashtag #ORIMnetwork