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Schools urged: enrol the parents

Poll says teachers must engage with guardians to help pupils prosper

BY JOANNE SWEENEY

More than 87% of people believe that schools should be investing in "engaging parents" along with teaching children, an opinion poll has suggested.

The findings support recent research which indicates that what happens beyond the school gates is the most significant factor on how well children do at school.

The LucidTalk poll, conducted on behalf of Save the Children (STC), also revealed that 94% of the 1,210 people polled believed that more money should be invested in improving child literacy and numeracy standards.

Two-thirds agreed it was important for children to have access to resources such as libraries, museums, parks and the internet.

Leslie-Anne Newton, head of programmes for STC, said: "It is very interesting the survey has shown that people want schools to invest in engaging parents.

"The respondents are quite correct because research has shown around 80% of the difference in how well children do at school is dependent on what happens beyond the school gates, whether in the home or wider community."

She said that the recent Chief Inspector's Report that children benefited from programmes that encouraged the involvement of parents and carers with partnership working between children, parents, the community and educational organisations.

These relationships and partnerships were also emphasised in other reports from the Confederation of British Industry, the Public Accounts Committee and the Northern Ireland Audit Office (NIAO).

Parents often feel unable or under-equipped to support their children's education, said Ms Newton, adding: "The NIAO report argues that huge gains in literacy and numeracy can be made if parents receive more encouragement to work with schools in support of their children's education and provide educational development in the home".

She said that one of its programmes – Families and Schools Together (Fast) – was cited as a good example of a successful parental engagement programme. and was used in 27 Ulster schools.

Billy MacAuley, former principal of Black Mountain Primary School, Belfast, said: "In just eight weeks, Fast achieved what the formal education system had failed to deliver for our parents in their school life and that's a feeling of self-worth and recognition that they can be masters of their own destiny."

Another primary school principal added: "Fast has broken down barriers in our school. Parents find it easier to approach us and it has really strengthened our relationships with them."

The Fast programme is run by STC and Middlesex University and is targeted at schools based in areas of social and economic deprivation to help children reach their full potential.

Ms Newton claimed that 81% of parents felt more able to support their children after the Fast programme ended. She added: "This programme works and we can measure it from our research with parents and schools."

STC will be introducing further new programmes next year.

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