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UK Poverty: helping parents, helping children with FAST

It is my third week delivering Families and Schools Together (FAST) in a London Primary School and the group has already become really established.

I am finding it really moving to see that the parents and children are just as eager for FAST to succeed as the team is.

This week’s session fell on the first day of school after half term, which is always a really hectic time for any family. So we were very pleased to see that families returned, and that new families were still joining.

The teachers on the FAST team were both surprised and excited to see that families who had had little previous contact with the school were coming, and were actually some of the most engaged members of the group.

Getting the feel of FAST

Every week one of the activities parents and their children take part in is Feelings Charades. The team has a pack of cards depicting different feelings, for example it may have ‘scared’ written on the card and a drawing of a face looking scared.

Everyone in the family comes to collect some cards and then each person takes it in turns to act out the emotion on their card, whilst their family guesses what it is.

This is a really simple game that helps parents identify their children’s feelings, to show their children they care about what they are feeling and to help children express their emotions.

Important games

The children really enjoyed this activity, trying out lots of new words and guessing actions.

It was a fun environment but big questions were also being asked. Feelings Charades opens up conversations about emotions, which many families find difficult to address.

One of my team members told me they overheard thoughtful conversations amongst all of the laughter: one mother asked her son when he last felt scared, and a dad told his daughter about what makes him happy.

Parent Time

Every week parents have time to chat as a group while their children are playing.

This is often the only moment of calm during the action-packed session and parents in my group are really making the most of the support they can give to each other.

Jennifer comes every week with her seven year old girl and her two year old son. At Parent Time she joins in every discussion, talking about raising her two children and the issues this brings, as well as giving advice to other parents.

FAST confidence

I was really surprised this week when she told us that she normally doesn’t talk that much and didn’t know other parents before FAST.

Jennifer said she enjoys talking in FAST because she feels she is being heard, and has no other opportunity to speak and know people are listening.

After building up her confidence in FAST, Jennifer told me she would love to learn more about speaking with confidence and would one day like to work for a charity, supporting others.

FAST support

Paul is eight years old and struggles with maths. His mum, Adriana, has talked to the FAST parents about how she struggles with maths, and her concerns about not being able to support her son’s homework.

During Parent Time the other parents gave her advice on adult education courses, shared their own stories about difficulties teaching their children, and techniques to help with homework.

Seeing a parent ask for help and receive so much support highlighted the fantastic way FAST brings the community together to help children succeed at school.  

All names have been changed to ensure anonymity.

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