Emerging practice details

Image
Image

C4EO theme: Families, Parents and Carers

Building parental and community links to improve on children’s outcomes, Bexley

Themes this local practice example relates to:

  • Schools and Communities
  • Families, Parents and Carers
  • General resources

Priorities this local practice example relates to:

    Basic details

    Organisation submitting example

    Schools and Educational Improvement, London Borough of Bexley

    Local authority/local area:

    London Borough of Bexley

     

    The context and rationale

    Background details to your example

    Summary
    Staff at St Augustine school wanted to engage with families, enhance quality of learning and contribute to social and economic development of the family. The provision of adult learning opportunities has helped to overcome barriers to learning for children which may come from their home and family environments. Raising the achievement of parents has also developed their social skills and employability.

    Background
    This project was developed in response to a specific need within the school and local area. It started after the school had been closed following an Ofsted category of special measures in 2003. It was reopened as a Church School and changed from a two form entry to one form entry.

    There was a cultural shift as the school admissions profile moved from a predominantly Punjabi speaking ethnic minority prior to closure to Black African and GRT (Gypsy Roma Traveller) ethnic minority. There was great difficulty in engaging the Black African and GRT parents. They saw any attempts by the school to include them in school life as an intrusion on their privacy; education was for the child and not for them. The school wanted to build relationships but not offend the parents or tread on their sensibilities.

    Consequently, having a person in a family liaison role who would engage parents and go on to build a cohesive school environment would improve outcomes for the children and their families. Better attendance by GRT pupils would also be a positive result of better home school relations.

    A starting point was to address the difference between the children’s progress and attainment and some parents’ attainment in literacy and numeracy or progress and attainment of English language skills. GRT parents were more likely to accept their own level of literacy, which for them was the norm among that generation, but they wanted more for their children.

    There was also a dissonance as to how these parents disciplined their children and what is acceptable (in the UK). And the cultural norms of Black African and GRT parents often meant children were ‘to be seen but not heard’. Children present in school would be either stressed or worried about being told off or concerned about their parent’s expectations. As a result, school staff felt there was a need for more discussion and better communication between child and parent. One method the school will use, amongst others, is to run a safeguarding course in January 2013 focusing on how to use positive strategies to build relationships and manage their children’s behaviour.

    Aims
    The aim of the project was threefold: to raise pupils’ levels through improved parent partnership, for parents to understand how to support their children’s learning and therefore to improve pupil performance and understand how the school systems work. St Augustine recognised that the school needed to meet the needs of the parents through interventions so that they could support their children’s learning. They realized that time must be given to this project in order to ensure pupil progress.

    Visits were made to see how other schools in the borough met the needs of the parents. One school held English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) courses for their parents to raise their English language skills. This led to St Augustine Family Liaison Officer & Ethnic Minority Achievement (EMA) Co-coordinator, working with Family Learning at Bexley Adult Education to plan school-based interventions to improve the attainment of St Augustine pupils.

    As a first step in engaging with the parents, the school sent out or handed out the Family Learning flyer. The school also invited the parents to international days and evenings where culture, food and music are celebrated. They were used as a way to welcome parents and pupils to the school and to introduce the courses. The Family Liaison Officer and her team met and spoke the parents individually. They found that the parents would bring friends and family to the event and this was a way of engaging with the community. This event evolved after the school had held tea and coffee mornings after assembly and the few parents who did come did not fully participate.

     

    The practice

    Further details about the practice

    Some of the courses held at St Augustine school included: ESOL, Literacy and Numeracy classes through Family Learning, KUCH Keeping Up with the Children and ICT - Information & Computer Technology courses.

    The ESOL focus was on parents of pupils who are Step 1 in the Bexley Language Acquisition Assessment Steps. The literacy courses were open to Key Stage 1 pupils and some Key Stage 2 pupils. This needed to be done sensitively as the parents of the Key Stage 2 children often found it hard to admit that they as parents needed some help with the literacy side of learning.

    The ESOL courses started in 2008. Four courses are generally run comprising 15 weeks a year with an average of six parents per course. This has run from 2008 till now except for one year.

    The literacy and numeracy courses are taught by a teacher from the school. That means that the school can build positive relationships with the parents and provide a link between parent and child in the learning process. It is an extension to the children’s learning.

    These courses often lead on to the parents taking accredited courses. The parents’ confidence increase and because the courses are in school the Black African and GRT patents do not feel singled out and do not feel they have lost face. A consequence was that all the parents and particularly the GRT parents were able to improve their own literacy and go on to accredited courses.

    Another aim of these courses is to upskill parents in the methods of teaching used in the school. The ESOL and literacy and numeracy courses are structured so that for half an hour during the course the children join their parents in learning activities. The KUCH courses also show the parents what methods were used to teach the children so they can replicate it when supporting children’s work at home. ICT courses leading to the ECDL (European Computer Driving License) are held at the Children’s Centre which is on the school premises.

    The school holds a ‘grandparents day’ to include them in the school environment and show them how to work with the children. Within the community they are very often the main day to day carers of the children and with GRT grandparents if the child is absent the grandparents are the primary contact.

    The school carries out a course planner at the start of the year and courses are timetabled to fit in with the school’s own timetable. As well as the courses, the school runs parent consultation days and provides a crèche for these. All the Teaching Assistants and the nursery nurses are off timetable so that they can look after the children and babies at this time. Initially the parents were not relaxed because they are not used to ‘strangers’ looking after their children. And they were not easy to engage in the consultations; however as the relationship with the school developed during the workshops they became more accepting and settled. The crèche is not provided during the courses and the learning commitment of the parents is demonstrated by the fact that they are willing to make their own arrangements for childcare.

    The school also works with families to raise awareness on health topics and E-safety http://c4eo.org.uk/files/638-health-elearning.pdf. This is run by a Health Improvement Officer for Families & Schools, initially with a taster session, followed by a two-hour session on a particular topic. The last workshop looked at ‘healthy packed lunches, food portion sizes and fitness’. The taster sessions are attended by parents and the Family Liaison Officer sits in, using this opportunity to engage with the parents. The taster will lead on to the full sessions which can include the children. To link the content to school life and curriculum, midday/school staff sit with the children at lunch time and chat about the contents of their lunch boxes and P.E. activities re-emphasise family fitness.

    As the parent’s skills have grown, many of them have attended job interviews but their lack of experience in these settings can sometimes let them down. In a reflection of their confidence in and the strength of their relationship with the school and the Family Liaison Officer, they will often report back on the result of their job interviews. For the first time, St Augustine will run a ‘Develop me’ course. This course is designed to promote self-esteem and develop personal skills. The motivation behind running the course is twofold; it empowers the parents which in turn raises their child (ren)’s self-esteem and consequently, motivation to learn. Shy children do not have the confidence to immerse themselves fully in some learning activities.

     

    Achievements so far

    Further details on your achievements

    Certificates are given at the end of the accredited courses. A parent on an ESOL course has gone from a zero beginner to being one of the English as an Additional Language (EAL) Teaching Assistants in the school. She has now been upgraded to a Level 2 TA and will be studying for Level 3 in the near future. Another parent has moved from Entry 1 to Level 2 in two years. Many of the parents who attended these courses went on to obtain employment.

    Another source of evidence is the evaluation forms from the Family Learning copies of which the school keeps copies. To date there has been 100% satisfaction from the parents for the courses. Parent feedback has said that they enjoyed working with their children. For example during the cartoon course naturally reticent parents relaxed and laughed. The speaking and listening courses improved parent child relationships and talking with children. Their confidence has improved and the end of course celebrations are always fun affairs. Children’s learning outcomes have improved because the parents can now support at home.

    ‘Mum now sits with me’

    ‘Mum doesn’t do it wrong anymore’

    Ofsted’s report 2010 identified the work that the Family Liaison Officer does when working with other agencies to support these vulnerable pupils and families as ‘effective’.

    Ofsted 2010 page 7

    Having a single point of contact person working with parents successfully facilitated cross-agency communication.

    Summaries from the evidence of the children’s outcomes can be seen in the Ethnic Minority (anonymised) data that Bexley Local Authority collects http://www.c4eo.org.uk/files/638progress2.pdf.

     

    Replication

    Other details

    The parent/pupil profile and learning needs of the parents and children need to be taken into account when planning to replicate this project. And the project needs a person in role who is given time to develop the project and has the commitment to do so. The Family Liaison Officer & EMA Co-coordinator has worked with another school in the borough in sharing this practice and help in planning some of their projects.

    Cost
    A partnership with Family Learning has meant that there is little or no cost to the school to run the course. This compares to fees starting at £72 for an 8-week ESOL course at the local Adult Education College. St Augustine chooses to use one of their teachers for the literacy or numeracy courses as they saw the opportunity of demonstrating teaching methods to the parents. This regular school contact enables parents to better monitor their children’s progress. Family Learning provides tutors for other courses.

    In an ongoing partnership with Family Learning, there are plans to run a new KUCH maths course in January 2013 for 12 weeks and include year 3 and 4 parents. The session time will be extended by 20 minutes so that the parents are able to work with their children under the direction of the tutor.

    The Safeguarding course in January addresses an important area to forestall any child protection issues. As such it is seen as a priority and the cost £240.00 for 6 hours will come out of the school’s budget.
    Just as the Safeguarding course raises awareness of particular issues, the Health & E-safety courses widens the scenario, looking at protecting health and children online. As this is a Public Health course there is no charge to the school.

    Barriers
    One of the main barriers to overcome was to find ways of engaging the Black African and GRT parents. These parent-focused programmes need to be non-stigmatising in their approach in order to ensure continued engagement. The main point is to demonstrate to the parents that everything is reflected back on to the children, so that every point of engagement with the school make the children feel more integrated and every success the parent has in their learning is reflected in the children’s own outcomes. Examples of Parents' comments http://www.c4eo.org.uk/files/638parents-comments.pdf.

    The value of the ‘Develop me’ course has been recognised and supported by St Augustine’s Children’s Centre. It will be a four-day intensive course followed by 12 weekly sessions if the feedback is positive. The crèche will cost the parents 50 pence per session and the Children’s Centre where the course will take place will fund the programme. This programme meets the needs of children whose parents are hindered by their lack of confidence and discussion skills from entering the job market and thus overcomes a barrier into employment.

    A future step is to open these courses to the wider community. New children join the school following good recommendations from parents and the result is that there are always parents who fit the criteria for the project. Addressing their learning needs before their children come into the school would give both the parents and the children a head start.

    Replication
    The parent/pupil profile and learning needs of the parents and children need to be taken into account when planning to replicate this project. And the project needs a person in role who is given time to develop the project and has the commitment to do so. The Family Liaison Officer & EMA Co-coordinator has worked with another school in the borough in sharing this practice and help in planning some of their projects.

    Cost
    A partnership with Family Learning has meant that there is little or no cost to the school to run the course. This compares to fees starting at £72 for an 8-week ESOL course at the local Adult Education College. St Augustine chooses to use one of their teachers for the literacy or numeracy courses as they saw the opportunity of demonstrating teaching methods to the parents. This regular school contact enables parents to better monitor their children’s progress. Family Learning provides tutors for other courses.

    In an ongoing partnership with Family Learning, there are plans to run a new KUCH maths course in January 2013 for 12 weeks and include year 3 and 4 parents. The session time will be extended by 20 minutes so that the parents are able to work with their children under the direction of the tutor.

    The Safeguarding course in January addresses an important area to forestall any child protection issues. As such it is seen as a priority and the cost £240.00 for 6 hours will come out of the school’s budget.

    Just as the Safeguarding course raises awareness of particular issues, the Health & E-safety courses widens the scenario, looking at protecting health and children online. As this is a Public Health course there is no charge to the school.

    Barriers
    One of the main barriers to overcome was to find ways of engaging the Black African and GRT parents. These parent-focused programmes need to be non-stigmatising in their approach in order to ensure continued engagement. The main point is to demonstrate to the parents that everything is reflected back on to the children, so that every point of engagement with the school make the children feel more integrated and every success the parent has in their learning is reflected in the children’s own outcomes.

    The value of the ‘Develop me’ course has been recognised and supported by St Augustine’s Children’s Centre. It will be a four-day intensive course followed by 12 weekly sessions if the feedback is positive. The crèche will cost the parents 50 pence per session and the Children’s Centre where the course will take place will fund the programme. This programme meets the needs of children whose parents are hindered by their lack of confidence and discussion skills from entering the job market and thus overcomes a barrier into employment.

    A future step is to open these courses to the wider community. New children join the school following good recommendations from parents and the result is that there are always parents who fit the criteria for the project. Addressing their learning needs before their children come into the school would give both the parents and the children a head start.

    Core leadership behaviours
    The following eight core behaviours have been identified as part of successful elements of leadership (see National College for Leadership of Schools and Children’s Services/C4EO (2011). Resourceful leadership: how directors of children’s services improve outcomes for children. Full report. Nottingham: NCSL.

    The leadership behaviours that apply to this example have been emboldened below.

    i. openness to possibilities
    At leadership level the focus is on how to manage change with parental community, thinking beyond constraints for continuous improvement.

    ii. the ability to collaborate
    The leadership addresses how to engage staff in learning and development that makes a key difference while consulting and including others in decision-making

    iii. demonstrating a belief in team and people
    A leadership strategy is to enable and empower others to act on their own initiative and recognise hard work and commitment from others

    iv. personal resilience and tenacity

    v. the ability to create and sustain commitment across a system

    vi. focusing on results
    The leadership understands the need to address bottom-line impact for both immediate and long-term effectiveness

    vii. the ability to simplify

    viii. the ability to learn continuously.

    C4EO Golden Threads
    The golden threads that apply to this example are:

    Together with children, parents and families – involve service users
    Focussing on the home learning environments can improve the learning outcomes of the children; the Children’s Centre, Family Learning and the school work together to engage parents and carers and help them understand how children develop and learn. Offering a range of services in the same location (for example, full service extended schools) or through a single point of contact (such as parent support advisers) can improve the services available through schools.

    It takes a community to raise a child – see the bigger picture
    Understanding the needs of the parents and carers are important in both engaging them and ensuring their support. The school endeavors to meet their distinct requirements so that parents and carers can use what the school offers as a means of that support rather than going somewhere else. This is done through School-based programmes that work with parents and carers to improve key outcomes including child behaviour, educational attainment and school attendance, as well as family relationships and stability.


    Back to resources

    Top

    Image
    Image