Moving On Up: Supporting Parent-Child Communication Through Extended Services

Coten End Primary School in Warwickshire is part of an Extended Services cluster made up of 6 primary and two secondary schools.  Providing parenting support is part of the Extended Services remit. Through discussions in focus groups led by the Extended Services Coordinator parents said they wanted to discuss subjects like sex and relationships and drugs with their children but found it difficult to get conversations started. Aware of findings from a Warwickshire County Council Respect Yourself Team consultation, that young people most wanted to receive sex and relationships information from parents, the idea of a joint parent and child event: "Moving on Up" was born.

Multi-agency working is integral to the Extended Services model, so the Coordinator was well-placed to harness the resources of School Health and the Warwickshire County Council Parenting Practitioner to contribute to the event.

The evening was planned on a school night in the summer term timed so that Year 6 pupils would have completed three SRE sessions in class delivered by School Health and teachers. Approximately 50 people attended, representing around 20 families, with either one or two parents or carers per family, and a number of fathers attending as well as mothers. The evening was designed on the principle of being inclusive for all families. The programme lasted one and a half hours and is summarised below:

  • Welcome address from the Headteacher
  • Warm-up 'jelly-baby' activity about body changes; this was a re-cap of topics covered in class and enabled children to lead the session
  • Children volunteered to stand up and talk about what they had learnt in class
  • Friendships activity; parents and children worked together each talking/listening for five minutes about one friend and what they value about that friendship
  • Scenarios used to explore 'crushes' and discuss emotional changes in puberty
  • Children and parents split into separate groups; this was an opportunity for the Parenting Practitioner to discuss parents' role in talking, listening and educating their children and for children to reflect on their experience of SRE.
  • Feedback session to bring parents and children back together
  • Family discussion to reflect on the evening and to plan 'one thing we are going to talk about' - this was recorded on an 'exit ticket'

Evaluation forms were completed by many participants and together with informal verbal feedback the professionals involved were able to reflect and plan for future events. Parents fed back that they found it useful to hear what children had learnt in school and many said that they now felt able to talk and listen more confidently without feeling embarrassed.

"Encouraged to hear children want to talk to parents about issues"

"Will continue to support as before but feel he'll find it easier to ask"

(Comments from parents)

Parents and children liked the informal setting - with round tables seating 2-3 families and drinks, fruit and jelly baby sweets available. Parents and professionals were also impressed by children's confidence in talking about what they had learnt in SRE in front of everyone; demonstrating confidence and comfort with vocabulary. One idea for future sessions was to have more educational resources available to look at. 

Following the first 'moving on up' event in 2009 Coten End Primary School has reviewed its SRE policy. This involved a parents-only evening and was attended by 110 parents. A more detailed section about how the school works with parents and carers has now been added to the policy. A year later and two more events have been held; again for Year 6 and a new event for Year 5. The sessions will now be held on an annual basis and may be rolled out to other schools.

The Extended Services Coordinator who planned and managed the event identified some success factors:

  • It was felt by the team that one of the keys to success was the detailed planning and communication that went into organising the evening
  • Having clear roles and responsibilities during the preparation and session itself helped the team to support each other
  • Using a multi-agency and multi-disciplinary approach we all brought our own expertise to the team

 

For more information contact Rebecca Stock, Extended Services Co-ordinator
Email stock.r@myton.co.uk