Families and Schools Together (FAST) is an award-winning early-intervention programme that brings parents, children, teachers and the wider community together, to make sure children get the support they need to fulfil their potential at school – and in life.
The impact of growing up in poverty in the UK can last a lifetime. It affects children’s wellbeing, their health and their life expectancy.
And it makes them less likely to do well at school than their wealthier peers:
- In England, the most disadvantaged children are almost three times more likely to be behind in reading when they finish primary school than their better-off peers
- One in five (22%) children in England aren’t reading well by the time they finish primary school. When you look at children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds, that figure rises to more than one in three (36%)
- Only a third (36%) of children on Free School Meals achieve five good GCSEs (grades A*-C, including English and maths), compared to nearly two-thirds (63%) of their better off classmates
We can break this cycle of poverty.
That’s why we’re committed to creating a lasting legacy for early intervention and parental support through FAST.
How does FAST work?
FAST works by building stronger bonds between parents, schools and communities to make sure children get the support they need to do their best at school.
The programme consists of an eight-week cycle of activity sessions, as well as help for parents to develop learning at home and ongoing support at school and within the community.
FAST supports families by:
- helping children improve their skills in reading, writing and maths – as well as encouraging good behaviour and a positive attitude to school and learning
- helping parents get more involved in their child’s education, so they can support learning and development at home
- encouraging stronger bonds between parents and their child, their child’s school, other parents and the wider community.
FAST has already transformed the lives of thousands of families in the UK. Between 2009 and 2015, 11,658 families took part in the programme, and those who took part in school year 2013-14 told us:
- children’s behavioural problems decreased by 26%
- family conflicts dropped by 24%
- 74% of parents felt more able to support their child in his or her education.
There is a story behind every statistic. Five-year-old Lewis lives with his mum, Becky, and his brother Dillan, who’s seven. Lewis had a lot of excess energy, and was struggling to sit and concentrate at school. He found it hard to manage his feelings and often got angry at home.
Becky and Lewis took part in FAST at Lewis’ school. It transformed their relationship, and dramatically improved Lewis’ concentration and behaviour.
“There’s a big difference between what Lewis was like and what he’s like now,” says Becky.
“He’s much happier talking about how he feels. Before he wasn’t interested in work, now he comes straight in and gets his board and does his numbers. It’s a total difference.
“It’s changed my view of school. All the parents who know each other from FAST have a connection. It’s made me better and stronger. I feel like I can cope every day.
“It’s a pleasure to be around Lewis now.”
The future for FAST
We’re committed to scaling up FAST to reach thousands more children living in poverty in the UK.
Our ambition is to deliver FAST to more than 50,000 children by 2017. This will help us build evidence to present to the government, to ensure parental-support programmes like FAST are available to all families.
To help with this we are working with Loughborough University, the National Foundation for Education Research and the Education Endowment Foundation, to conduct a large-scale trial to scientifically evaluate the impact of FAST on children. Up to 160 schools will be taking part in the trial - the first of its kind outside the USA.
We have ambitious aims for FAST but we believe that by working together, we can help give even more children living in poverty a fair chance at school – and in life.
What you can do to help
The more support we receive, the more children we can reach in the UK's most deprived areas.
Donate now to help give children the chance to succeed at school.
We're also looking for volunteers to help run the programme in schools. You'll be matched to a school near you and will need commit to two days training, one review day and one afternoon a week for eight weeks.
As well as being a valuable way to help children fulfil their potential, volunteering is a great way to get involved in your local community. It’s also really fun and rewarding and you could learn new skills and meet new people.
Calling schools and councils
We're also looking for schools and local authorities to help us to bring FAST to more communities.
If you can help, please email FAST@savethechildren.org.uk.
Find out more on our FAST UK website.