Fatherhood Institute response to DCSF parental engagement consultation

1 March 2010

Engaging successfully with fathers requires an interdisciplinary approach; an openness to developing father-inclusiveness across services; oversight by well-trained staff who understand both the importance of father engagement and the sensitivities of bringing men into female dominated services; adequate funding; and an emphasis on evaluation and dissemination of good practice.

These were the conclusions of the Fatherhood Institute’s evidence to the Department for Children, Schools and Families’ consultation on parental engagement, which you can download now from below.

The Department of Children Schools and Families issued a call for evidence on parental engagement so as to inform guidance and materials to help practitioners in schools, colleges, children’s centres and early years settings to improve their work with parents. The consultation closed at the end of January 2010.

Because it matters, and because the law says so

In our evidence, we explain that father engagement matters because research shows that it benefits children throughout their learning life, and it gives fathers the space to enjoy their children in a way they might find difficult to create themselves. It also matters because all children’s and public services are obliged by legislation to include all parents equally, irrespective of gender or family status.

We show that there are some real barriers to father inclusion in services and to father engagement, but present case studies which demonstrate that these are not insurmountable. The case studies show that all types of fathers – including non-resident fathers and those with English as a second language – can be positively involved.

Beyond father-only activities

We also argue that at a relatively early stage in engaging with fathers, the focus is often on father-only activities – and that while these can be a useful first stage in opening practitioners’ and parents’ eyes to the importance of engaging fathers (and can provide a ‘safe space’ for fathers in environments which are usually unwelcoming of them) research shows clearly that these only flourish and are sustained, and that fathers only become engaged more widely, if a whole service/school is committed to drawing the dads into the full range of activities and services directed at ‘parents’ (Burgess: 2009).

Our case studies – and wider evidence – show that services for children aged 0-19 cannot take a gender-neutral approach and hope to engage a substantial percentage of fathers, particularly fathers who are less confident and well resourced. Rather, it is their duty to develop specific strategies and manage father engagement systematically and positively in every context. Today’s patchy provision of services, even where there is clear ideological commitment to father involvement, must transform into a universal ethos backed up by practical strategies and whole-setting commitment. Only then will the benefits to children of their father’s involvement at home and engagement in educational and childcare settings, be fully realised.

Download our response: FI response to DCSF parental engagement consultation

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