Case Study: Kensal Rise Primary School ‘Father Inclusion’ project
N.B. This case study is adapted from: Fathers’ Involvement in their Children’s Education:
A review of research and practice by Rebecca Goldman, published by the National Family and Parenting Institute in 2005. Order
Project description and objectives
The Fathers Inclusion Project works to involve fathers and male carers in their children’s education and school, and to increase communication and support. Most of the work is individual work between fathers, children and teachers. The Project has also organised a Bring Dad to School Day.
The aims of the project are to:
• enhance the educational opportunities of children in the school, especially the boys.
• fulfil the requirements of the school’s social inclusion policy in line with their Equal Opportunities policy.
• provide support for children and their parents
• provide opportunity for parents to participate and benefit from school support.
The Project arose out of an awareness of some fathers’ lack of involvement in their children’s school lives, and that a few specific pupils who were not receiving support from either their birth father or a father figure were struggling at school/ had challenging behaviour. Single-parent mothers needed support. In addition, although many men are now playing a more active role in their children’s lives (nurturing, passing on values and becoming a physical presence), their presence is not always felt at school. The school is for children aged four to eleven, and serves pupils from a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds and social backgrounds. The proportions of pupils eligible for free school meals and with special educational needs are both higher than the national average. About a third speak English as an additional language. Pupils speak about 30 different languages, the main languages apart from English being Gujarati, Arabic and Portuguese. (Information from 2001 Ofsted inspection report)
There are twenty fathers working directly with the school’s Behaviour Improvement Project. Many non-resident fathers are involved, as well as resident fathers, step-fathers and “father figures” (e.g. grandfathers, uncles and older brothers). The fathers have different levels of education and literacy. The Bring Dad to School Day involved over 100 adult men (two thirds of the school population) and 430 children.
At the school. No set times- the school has an “open door” to fathers. Most meetings are held within the school day with occasional after-school appointments. Teachers liaise with fathers to establish the most convenient times for them to come into the school and support their children. For the Bring Dad to School Day, some fathers negotiated time off work with their employer as paid leave.
Processes and implementation
Most of the Project is 1:1 work with fathers who have had no or little contact with their children and whose children are of concern- “trying to build bridges”. Individual work is used as it was felt that group sessions/ workshops would not be as effective due to children’s and fathers’ very individual circumstances.
Fathers are invited to come into the school when they can to talk to teachers about how they can support their child’s learning and development, and whether/ how they can get involved in the school. For non-resident fathers, the school is “neutral ground” for building their relationship with their child. The father may agree to a specific plan such as regular visits or involvement in a mentoring group supporting Yr ^ children’s transition to secondary school.
Fathers are given regular information about their child’s progress if they want this e.g. using telephone:- in one case, this is as often as every other day. The school has an “open door policy” so that fathers can come into the classroom or have time with their child outside the class. Support is offered where needed e.g. brief therapy working with the parents and children together.
A fathers’ forum is organised to give fathers an opportunity to discuss issues amongst themselves.
The Bring Dad to School day was organised in the summer term in 2003 around Fathers Day. It ran all day with sessions comprising:- “Dads at Work”; reading and story-telling, science workshop set in school’s wild life habitat, maths games with prizes, outdoor physical games, music, a fathers seminar, lunch with the children, computers, and a Fathers Day celebration. Teachers were released from class to support the different activities. In sessions where learning activities were modelled, materials were used that the fathers could use themselves at home.
Publicity / Recruitment
Fathers whose children have educational and/or emotional difficulties are targeted (the school’s Behaviour Improvement Project). The main carer (e.g. mother) is invited in and asked about other family members. Details of non-resident fathers are obtained where possible. The school then telephones the fathers and follows up with a letter.
For the Bring Dad to School Day, posters were put up around the school in different languages. A programme of events was developed.
For the Bring Dad to School Day, each participating father received a certificate (this was mentioned in the publicity), which they could show to their employer if they took the day off work. There were prizes as part of sessions and at the end of the day.
The project is run by the school’s female pupil-parent liaison officer/ inclusion manager. Most teachers at the school are female- but there are 3 male teachers, 1 male nursery nurse, 1male learning support assistant and 1 male language support worker. The male learning support assistant is used to help translate into Arabic for Muslim fathers and if there are gender issues, especially in initial meetings. However, gender has not been that great an issue because the focus is on the child.
What was important in engaging fathers?
• Working in a way that does not make fathers defensive- A non-patronising approach.
• Persistence in contacting fathers.
• Being committed and dedicated.
• Putting the child at the centre.
• Having firm beliefs about goals.
• Develping good relationships with fathers.
• Language support and use of interpreters where needed.
• Accepting a lack of planning and routine when working with parents- flexibility.
• Looking at teachers’ perceptions and judgements of men.