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Children can achieve well at school when their family and friends take an interest in their school and schoolwork. Getting involved in your child’s education, even in the simplest way, shows that you care about their school life. Often, the more supported a child feels at home, the more effectively she or he will learn at school. Whatever your lifestyle, or family situation, it is never too soon (or too late) to start helping a child develop a positive attitude towards learning.
Family Lives appreciates that time can be a factor in busy families but there are ways of being involved in your child's education without feeling overwhelmed. If you are a non-resident parent, it is equally as important to be involved in your child's learning too. This can give the child far greater goals and inspire them to try their best where they can.
Try to give encouragement and show appreciation of the child’s achievements, whether great or small, this will help boost their confidence. Try to teach them necessary organisation skills and how to manage their time so they are not overwhelmed with projects or homework. Be realistic and avoid putting your child under pressure by having over-high expectations. Let your child develop at their own pace, but if you do have concerns, please speak to their teacher.
Try to give feedback rather than criticism, e.g. saying ‘that didn’t seem to work’ rather than ‘you got it wrong’. This helps them think about where they went wrong rather than feel a failure.
You might find contacting the school or talking to your child’s teachers difficult, or think they will not have time for you. But finding out more about their school life and what they are learning shows your child how much you care about their education. And getting to know the school and the teachers is the best way of finding out more.
Often parents like to introduce a variety of interests in and out of school too so children have the opportunity to explore other interests that they enjoy. Learn together, do things together, visit interesting places, talk about things you’ve seen on television and allow your child to ask questions. Encourage reading by having books, magazines and newspapers in the home and let your child see you and other family members reading them.
When a child comes home from school, they may be tired so try not to fire too many questions at your child as soon as they walk through the door. They may be tired or hungry and not feel like talking. Be available to listen later if they want to talk.
Education is more than just maths, English and science. Sports, art, computers, whatever your child’s talents, you can help them aim high by boosting their confidence and you can do this by:
If your child has Special Educational Needs (SEN), it is even more important to be involved so you can understand what support your child is receiving at school and whether he or she is on target. You can speak to their class teacher or the SENCO if your school has one. You may hear terms that are unfamiliar and if this is the case, you can always speak to the school or your Local Education Authority about what these mean. Your child may have an IEP (Individual Education Plan) which is reviewed on a quarterly basis, this will indicate what support your child needs and how this is being met by the school. These plans should be set with your involvement in a meeting with the teacher and SENCO. If your child does need extra help, find out from the school how he or she can be supported at home, it may be something as simple as allowing them to draw more often to help with fine motor skills, etc.
Parent Partnership Services
If your child has special educational needs, you might find it useful to contact your local Parent Partnership Service through the national network. Family Lives runs the Parent Partnership Service in Croydon providing independent information, advice and guidance for parents/carers of children and young people with special educational needs.
A child's main anxiety may be the fear of not knowing anyone when they first start school or having no friends. But children are usually very flexible in making new friends. And some schools will actively help new pupils to get to know one another through peer mentoring or buddying schemes. Children sometimes make friends and then fall out again for a short time - many different groupings and regroupings can occur in the early days. You can help your child by encouraging them to:
Discourage your child from being over-reliant on a small group of friends. If your child feels excluded by a group encourage her or him to make friends with other pupils. Involvement in local clubs or play centres may help. If they are struggling to make friends, speak to the school and see if they are able to support your child and offer suggestions too.
Young people live and learn in two worlds – home and school. The way the two connect and communicate can make an enormous difference to how children learn to manage in both places. If teachers, parents and young people all trust, listen and talk to each other, the final goal of helping children learn and develop to their best ability is most likely to be achieved. Children can’t learn if they are stressed, worried or unhappy, about something happening in or out of school, or if the culture of the school leaves them feeling their family background, ethnicity or race isolates or stigmatises them.
While many schools recognise the need to deal with the whole child and take into account their family circumstances, some seem to continue to believe that their only role is teaching. This means that when children or families are struggling, they may feel the school offers little understanding or back up. You may be concerned about and wish to support your child’s learning, but may feel at a loss to know how. Both parents and teachers need to communicate and see their roles as complementary and inclusive. You have a right to expect and ask for help. For ideas on how to help children in school, visit Advisory Centre for Education (ACE).