Joining FAST, a scheme that delivers big results for UK children
Our UK programme, Families and Schools Together (FAST), gives parents the confidence and skills to help their child learn, and it’s produced amazing results.
Teachers report a 10% improvement in reading, writing and maths among children enrolled on FAST programme, after just eight weeks.
And a remarkable 73% of parents also became more involved in their child’s education.
So when I was given the opportunity to be part of the community team delivering FAST, I was really excited, but also nervous about living up to the high standards that have been set!
I was trained as a member of the FAST team in a London primary school. It has been a good few years since I’ve been back to school but the small chairs and big assembly hall felt strangely familiar! Everyone was really welcoming and the children were very well behaved.
But, as I soon learnt from talking to the teachers, the children face a wide range of issues, including gang violence and overcrowded housing.
As the weeks go by, I’ll hear from the families themselves about the effect this has on their children.
I was really looking forward to meeting the other volunteers who I will work with over the next eight weeks.
Our two day training was led by Asther from Save the Children, though ultimately we want to support people in the community to become trainers so that FAST can be delivered in every school.
Asther divided us into four groups, with each group supporting their own FAST families over the following eight weeks. The group included someone from the school to help build links between families and the school, a parent partner to provide peer support, and a community volunteer to link families to services in the community.
We were asked to take on the role of the families so in my group one of the parent partners volunteered to be the parent and the rest of us were her children for the day!
Improving children’s confidence
We took part in each of the FAST activities parents and their children will do every week. One of these activities involved the parent and child spending 15 minutes together, where the child plays and the parent follows their lead.
Finding the time to play with their child can be difficult for parents who are stressed, socially isolated or depressed.
During this activity the child has their parent’s undivided attention and the encouragement they receive dramatically improves their behaviour and confidence.
For me, playing the role of a family was the most important part of the training as it gave me a glimpse of what families experience as they take part in FAST.
At first I was curious and a bit nervous about the activities, but nerves soon turned to laughter as we enjoyed talking, playing and learning more about each other.
And then I realised that I felt relaxed and was bonding with people I had only met a few hours before.
If FAST can have this impact on a group of strangers, it’s easy to understand how the programme can make such a difference for families.