The Family School’s parental engagement programme awarded share of £4 million to reintegrate children in mainstream education

14th August 2018 By: Michelle Cunliffe

Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families’ work with The Family School is among nine projects across the country that have been awarded a share of £4 million from the Department for Education to improve the education of children in alternative provision (AP).

The Centre will receive £466,614 over two years to trial The Family School’s parent coaching programme in three new AP settings nationwide. As part of the programme parents are encouraged to become involved in their children’s education and behaviour support programmes, and to attend sessions in the AP. The programme builds on the experience of The Family School which has resulted in 60% of students returning to their former place of education or a similar school with 95% of them remaining there.

The parent coaching programme will now be tested for the first time in other settings, to establish its suitability for different environments and to assess what the impact of the programme could be on AP and the wider education sector.

In a press release by the Department for Education, School Standards Minister Nick Gibb said: “Every child, no matter the challenges they face in their life, should have the opportunity to fulfil their potential through an excellent education. School standards in this country are rising, but for some children – those who are excluded or cannot attend mainstream or special schools – this quality varies greatly, with low expectations about their outcomes and futures.”

“There are some excellent examples of good alternative provision but we need to raise standards across the board if we want to give every young person the opportunity to succeed. Projects like this in London, backed by more than £460,000, will develop new ways of doing this which can be shared around the country, so that we can improve education for every child and make sure they receive support to meet their individual needs,” said Nick Gibb.

Brenda McHugh, Co-Director of Mental Health in Schools and Co-Founder of The Family School, said: “We’re delighted to receive this funding from the DfE. We believe that the parent coaching model that we have developed at The Family School can have a major impact on children’s lives by supporting parents to help their children to learn without putting an overwhelming burden on them or the APs. The fund will help us develop and refine our ways of working and to share it with three hubs across the UK. This is a great opportunity to help children who have been excluded from school back into mainstream education and thrive there.”

This project will contribute to the crucial ongoing work at the Centre to manualise The Family School model, develop and disseminate materials, deliver training to AP staff and implement research into the efficacy of the approach. The aims of the project are to:

  • Support children and young people to achieve good academic progress by involving parents and carers in engaging children in AP in their education.
  • Improve children’s progress in key subjects, like English and Mathematics, which provide a strong platform for further study and employment.
  • Support the AP sector, including schools and colleges to improve their offer and practice by developing or utilising local and national disseminated routes to share learning and effective practice.

The Family School opened in 2014 as an initiative of the Centre and places a high priority on integrated behavioural and academic learning and collaborating with parents to achieve progress. Last year it received an Outstanding Ofsted rating in every category after its first inspection. Ofsted said that the school’s approach has been successful in helping families to improve their lives. As one parent put it, “The school has saved us. We were so isolated before coming here. Now we have friends.”

With the support of DfE’s AP Innovation Fund, the Centre aims to replicate its successes, working with parents in three AP settings: Inspired Directions School in London, Springwell Alternative Academy in Leeds and Restormel AP Academy in Cornwall.