In 2020 the Council published its Supporting Family Learning and Parenting Across East Dunbartonshire strategy (Link to strategy) to enhance and strengthen our family learning support in early years centres and schools.
The approach creates a mechanism that brings together a range of services to ensure parents get the right support at the right time. This, in turn, supports children and young people’s learning, wellbeing and life chances.
The Supporting Families Central Team has a detailed knowledge of both the local communities with which they work and external agencies and Supporting Families Workers work closely with the 12 Family Learning Assistants in 12 of our primary schools and the 20 Family Champions based in our early years centres.
Supporting Families Workers play a key role in mentoring the Family Champions who have increased confidence in engaging with parents and improved knowledge of other services to which they can signpost parents. Almost all Family Champions are engaging in regular network meetings, supporting them to share practice and ideas in order to improve outcomes for children and their families. They are involved in preventative and early intervention strategies and support, for example, during lockdown over 60 play packs were sent home to identified families in areas of Place to support and encourage play at home.
Family Learning Assistants are established within their school communities, enabling them to build solid relationships within the school and remove any perceived stigma of accessing support.
Since 2020, in partnership with school leadership teams, Family Learning Assistants have introduced;
- Family Learning Facebook pages
- Family Learning newsletters
- Support for families to use and access IT during lockdown
- Well-being check-ins with families during lockdown
- Families connect sessions
- Fitness classes
- Homework classes
- Gardening clubs
- Fair share
- Walking sessions.
As part of the strategy a Request for Assistance system is in place, to allow referrals to be made from a range of agencies including schools, early years centres, social work and health. In addition, a parenting webmail address was set up to allow parents to self-refer.
In 2020/21, 38 requests were made from primary schools and early years centres, 29 from parental self-referral and 15 from other agencies.
In May 2021 an evaluation of the Supporting Family Learning and Parenting Across East Dunbartonshire strategy was conducted with staff, parents, schools and early years centres. The evaluation found the strategy had had an extremely positive impact, with key strengths being: parents signposted to the right services at the right time, improved self-efficacy of families through targeted interventions to address equality and equity, and shared good practice amongst Supporting Families employees.
In broad terms, the impact on parents / carers has been as follows:
Depute Chief Executive, Ann Davie, said, “Since publishing our Supporting Family Learning and Parenting Across East Dunbartonshire strategy, the Supporting Families Team has had an extremely positive impact on the lives of families within our school and early years communities, despite the many challenges posed by the current pandemic. There are stronger home-school/early years centre links which have seen an increase in sustained attendance and motivation for learning, and many families have also been supported to minimise the impact of poverty.
“Not only has the evaluation highlighted the beneficial effect the strategy has had since its introduction, it has also provided us with recommendations as we go forward. These include the introduction of a comprehensive Professional Learning Programme and the further development of the Families Together funding stream to support our most vulnerable families.
“I look forward to seeing the Families Together Programme grow from strength to strength, ensuring all children and young people are given every opportunity to thrive in our schools and early years centres.”