Schools need to take advantage of the ‘pupil premium’.
Funding which is intended for every child who is entitled to free school meals amounts to £623 per head. This is a very significant sum of money in today’s tough funding environment and the school can draw down this funding to support a range of innovative projects run by charities such as the WEA. According to research conducted by Department for Education:
“parental involvement in children’s learning is a key factor in improving children’s academic attainment and achievements, as well as their overall behaviour and attendance. The role of parents during a child’s earliest years is the single biggest influence on their development. Good quality home learning contributes more to children’s intellectual and social development than parental occupation, education or income”.
These findings come as no surprise to the WEA which has been delivering family learning over many years. Schools and parenting is a key WEA curriculum area and we currently run 249 courses annually, 38% of which lead to accreditation and we deliver with and through 60 partners, including schools, universities and children’s centres.
The benefits to the adults involved are also very significant.
Nearly 40% of our students did not hold a qualification at level 2 or above and nearly 50% were living in areas of disadvantage. There would therefore be a high correlation between the conditions of eligibility for the pupil premium and the young people and adults who we are engaging.
Our curriculum is also very flexible and includes a range of skills and outcomes, for example practical parent helpers is an introductory course but it leads to Helping in Schools (HIS), an accredited course.
Family learning courses include cooking, learning through play, and supporting children with English and maths. The adults are getting maths and English Levels 1&2 and they are then in a much better position to help their children with homework and to understand any learning difficulties and seek our appropriate support. Teaching reading skills, helping in sentence construction and composition and general written communication is proving a real boon to young people – all the more because their learning is reinforced by positive role models at home and time committed by the parents towards their education. Most maths and English teachers have 3 or 4 hours a week at most with their pupils, parents are on duty 24/7. Do the maths!
Just as with the Evening Standard Get London Reading Scheme the results, even in the short-term, can be very impressive.
For the adults getting involved boosts self-confidence, encourages involvement in other volunteer activities, enables the acquisition of qualifications and enhances their own health and wellbeing. Head teachers have themselves reported children attending school more regularly along with improvements in behaviour and higher levels of achievement in academic studies.
These are impressive outcomes. A win-win for all concerned.
Why then is this opportunity being wasted or at least not utilised to the full? How many more children and their parents could benefit?
Some years ago I visited an inspirational catholic girls school in Londonderry as the guest of the then head teacher Geraldine Keegan, to present her with her Investors In People Champion award. Sixty per cent of the girls in the school were on free school meals, but all of them went onto employment or further and higher education. Geraldine didn’t have a pupil premium but she did understand the necessity of involving the parents as role models by bringing them into the school. St Mary’s was open at weekends running adult literacy and numeracy classes for adults, and parents regularly helped out as volunteers in their children’s classes. This integrated model of learning is very special and raises aspiration and performance.
What better use for the pupil premium?