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Blackmountain Primary School opens new Parents' Room

Blackmountain Primary School opens new Parents' Room

Baroness May Blood officially opened a new Parents’ Room today in Blackmountain Primary School Belfast. The new facility has been made possible through funding of £20,000 from the Department for Social Development.

The school applied for the funding after running the Families and Schools Together (FAST) programme with Save the Children and seeing the benefits of engaging parents in their children’s education. It is hoped the parent’s room will provide space for family education programmes and events that facilitate family engagement and community learning.

FAST runs through eight-weekly sessions. During each session, children and parents take part in activities to improve educational outcomes and wellbeing, including eating a family meal together, family play, learning and communication activities and one-to-one parent-child support. Parents also have the chance to work on community-building and to take part in one-to-one sessions with other parents.

School Principal Jill Black said, “At Blackmountain we believe in developing the whole child and in the importance of parental engagement to fully achieve this. We recognise that initiatives such as FAST, help us to reach out to the families and into the community so that we can work together to help our children break down barriers to learning to reach their full potential. This project is central to the nurturing ethos of our school as we build relationships with our families and with the local community. The redevelopment of the parent’s room is not only a place for parents to meet and learn but shows the value the school places on their involvement in school life and ultimately their child’s education.”

Ms Black went on to thank the members of the FAST team, led by the coordinator Mrs Helen Hirthe, and all the volunteers who have helped out each week. “It was a real team effort and we couldn’t do it without their good will and enthusiasm,” she said.

At Blackmountain we have gone from having 87 pupils enrolled to 143 pupils and we believe that this is partly through building strong relationships with our families. That is why we are working in partnership with agencies such as Save the Children to ensure that our children can reach their full potential.

Peter Bryson, Senior Programmes Manager for Save the Children in NI describes how the FAST programme supports parents, “One of the factors that influence a child’s success at school is the type of support and stimulation their parents provide at home. Another is the relationship parents have with their child’s school. That’s why FAST brings families and schools together, to help children fulfil their potential and improve their chances in life. Importantly, following completion of the FAST programme, 81% of parents reported feeling more able to support their child in his or her education. In a nutshell, this programme works – and we can measure it from our research with parents and schools.”

Helen Hirthe, FAST Team Co-ordinator at Blackmountain Primary School said “FAST is going from strength to strength in Blackmountain with bigger numbers of families looking for places each year. The children love having their mums and dads, brothers and sisters and even some grandparents joining in. It has been a pleasure to welcome the families into the school every week. It shows on the faces of the children, FAST makes children shine!”

The new Parents Room at Blackmountain will be officially opened by Baroness May Blood on Friday 27th November 2015. Other dignitaries include representatives from DSD, Education Authority Belfast Region and Save the Children.