Save The Children's programme Families and Schools Together
which encourages parents in deprived areas to work with schools has been getting quite a bit of publicity recently. Channel 4 News
ran item about the programme a few days ago and pointed out that it's actually a bank and supermarket that are supporting it, rather than the government. This said, the programme is not overtly "political" -- it will work with academies, free schools, and LA schools without any bias -- but aims to get parents from stressed circumstances to come into school and work with their children on some key issues: feeling pride in who they are as a family; developing a sense of routine; perceiving the importance of shared meal-times and routines; understanding the crucial impact of parental attention.
I'm on a steering group for the programme so I have a special interest in it (but receive no remuneration!) and feel that it has an important role to play in addressing some key issues relating to child poverty and parental engagement. I thought this was an interesting point that Channel 4 highlighted:
"Graham Allen is a Labour MP who says every child should have access to a FAST Programme. He's written two hugely influential papers on early intervention for the government. But perhaps surprisingly he isn't calling for the coalition to put up the cash. And as for a crucial education programme being sponsored by a high street supermarket? Welcome to the real world, he says.
"I think we've got to be a lot more creative now, to imagine that a government - whether it's a Conservative government, a coalition government or a Labour government even will find slabs of billions of pounds to fund programmes is like this is a pipe dream."
We do have to be creative in our solutions when money is so short. FAST is cost-effective and it's "all-embracing"; it doesn't seek to privilege any particular group, nor make any comments about what is the right way to "structure" our education system. Instead, it works with what's there.
The results that it's achieved in the States and in the UK are impressive and telling; children from the lowest socio-economic backgrounds who've been part of the FAST programme have achieved much better academic and "psychological" outcomes than children not on the programme. For a discussion of its notable results, read here