Joy Ohen, Parent Programme Officer, has been delivering SFSC across South London for a number of years. Many of the venues that she has been using to deliver programmes have been schools. Here she reflects on the lessons learnt from this, and the challenges and benefits of school based parenting provision.
In setting up SFSC parenting programmes to run successfully, I have to consider venues parents will be comfortable in. I then think about recruitment, where we may have access to parents and carers, and where we can ensure delivery can smoothly take place. This often means thinking about schools as potential delivery venues, and in most cases means contacting schools in the vicinity of a programme to ensure they communicate the opportunity to their parent body.
Beyond the obvious reasons that schools can often provide ideal locations for parenting programmes – they have child friendly spaces for creche provision, attendance can coincide with school drop off, schools have direct communication with parents, schools can often identify families who may be in need of support – it is also the case that what we try to achieve through SFSC needs to fit well with the needs of schools and what they want to secure in terms of positive outcomes for children.
Parenting programmes in schools play a crucial role in fostering healthy child development and creating a supportive environment for children. SFSC provides parents with valuable skills, knowledge, and resources to enhance their parenting abilities, leading to positive outcomes for both the child and the family as a whole. The importance of these programmes cannot be overstated, as they contribute to overall well-being and allows parents to get a better understanding of the social-emotional development of their child/children.
One key role of parenting programmes in schools is to equip parents with effective parenting strategies. Many parents face challenges in understanding and addressing their child’s behaviours, emotions, and needs. SFSC provides guidance on essential skills such as positive discipline, effective communication, setting boundaries, and building nurturing relationships. The curriculum covers ethnic/cultural roots and traditions, relationship enhancing strategies, positive discipline techniques, activities that help children transition through childhood, and explores the role of the wider community in providing a secure environment for children to grow up in. These strategies empower parents to create a safe and loving environment where their children can thrive.
Furthermore, by helping parents to develop a deeper understanding of child development, including cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development they are better able to set realistic expectations, respond appropriately to their child’s needs, and support their overall development and learning. It also helps parents recognise signs of potential struggles or developmental delays, allowing for early intervention when necessary.
Another vital benefit of SFSC in school settings is to foster positive parent-child interactions and improve family relationships. The programme emphasises the importance of spending quality time (special time) with children and creating meaningful connections. By promoting activities such as reading together, engaging in play, and participating in child-led shared experiences, SFSC encourages parents to build strong bonds with their children. These positive interactions strengthen the family unit and contribute to the overall well-being of both parents and children. And of course, this benefits the school, it can enhance classroom behaviour and impact learning.
SFSC encourages parents to develop their own networks of support and joining a group provides a platform for parents to connect and support one another. Parenting can be challenging, and many parents may feel isolated or uncertain about their skills and choices. SFSC creates a supportive community where parents can share experiences, seek advice, and learn from one another. It fosters a sense of belonging and reduces the stigma around parenting struggles as parents come to see their challenges as ones that others may well be experiencing.
Alongside this, SFSC’s unique approach encourages parents to become more active in their local community, and confident in their role as advocates for their children as well as understanding the strength of acting as a group rather than alone. This often leads to parents becoming much more actively involved in the schools their children attend, and this can be especially the case when programmes are delivered in schools. This can be seen in a range of ways including parental involvement in the PTA, volunteering to support reading programmes, standing for the governing body, and accessing training to become teaching assistants.
School staff, including head teachers, consistently identify positive benefits to their parents and to the wider school from hosting SFSC programmes, and most schools actively campaign to have SFSC return to their school for repeat delivery. Unfortunately, the demands on school budgets mean that they rarely are able to identify funds that allow them to continue to deliver SFSC, either by training school staff to run programmes regularly or by paying for external facilitators to come and deliver to their parents. This is a real missed opportunity for schools and the families they serve, investing in SFSC in schools is essential for building healthier, happier, and stronger families.