Field report: FRED at Jubilee Primary School, Tulse Hill

29 April 2013

Background

Jubilee Primary School is a progressive primary school in Tulse Hill, south London, with two-form entry. The school has a high number of newly arrived families and EAL pupils, and a high number of children receiving free school meals. We launched FRED at Jubilee Primary School in February 2013, as part of a project funded by SHINE, Walcott Foundation and JJ Charitable Trust. Here’s a quick summary of what’s happened so far.

 

Getting the school ready

First we delivered our ‘Dad Factor’ training to key staff, offering a shortened, intensive 2-hour session to fit in with the school timetable.

We then ran a session on FRED, training staff on the content of the programme and how to make it happen, including thinking about what books would be appropriate for children to read with their dads; strategies to engage fathers in FRED; how to publicise FRED and how to use ‘pester power’ to get dads engaging with the programme.

This is what the staff said they learned from the course:

‘The course helped me understand that reading can have a big impact on children, and that there are barriers that stop a father. Start recruiting and start to get fathers involved in their child reading NOW.’

‘Be more aware of the challenges fathers face and try to think about ways to overcome them.’

‘Make sure we are more approachable.’

‘Absent fathers are not always absent.’

‘[The course] helped me understand that fathers can make such a difference.’

‘Evidence from research and how to use this to prepare/change attitudes towards male roles, and encourage more fathers into school.’

‘I feel I understand more about father figures in society, I found through discussion there were things that we perhaps notice but don’t think about properly.’

‘Have been reminded that there are different types of dads and will be more prepared for all types.’

 

Launching FRED

The school ran a FRED launch party at 2pm on a Thursday. A total of 37 fathers and father-figures attended, including :

• 29 fathers/father-figures whose children came from African, Caribbean, Asian and Middle Eastern backgrounds – two of these were accompanied by their children’s mother

• Six fathers who were white British; one of these was an older brother

• Two female ‘father-figures’; one was a lesbian mum and the other was a mum who had no males in her family to stand as father-figures.

At the party staff introduced FRED and invited the dads to register to take part in the programme. Children came into the hall class by class, to hear a story read by a professional storyteller, who did a warm up session followed by Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae. The storyteller got all the fathers and children engaged, and had them chanting and dancing during the warm up and totally engaged in the story – the warmth and feeling of nurture and bonding in the hall was inspiring.

 

How did the school get the dads to come to the launch?

The school lead, Ursula Johnston (community partnership leader) says: “I know some of the dads from other parental engagement events I’ve hosted at the school which have been aimed at engaging fathers in particular, such as sport and film clubs. Also, it’s about being in the playground and approaching dads on a 1:1 basis to have a chat and explain what we are offering and what the benefits are for their children. Pester power is also a great way in and I think the personalised FRED invitations were very effective in helping to get the dads into school. FRED is a great initiative as it is focussed and practical not fluffy, dads don’t like fluffy they want to get down and do.”

 

What did the dads think?

The fathers at the event talked about the pride they have in their children and their aspirations for them, wishing them to achieve and progress in their reading and education.

The school sees FRED as a key plank in its strategy to engage with fathers. It is using FRED as a stepping stone to its next project, which is to create a mini forest school area – one of the dads at FRED is a landscape gardener a great asset to this next stage. Sustainability of father-engagement is a prime aim.

The book box that acts as a FRED library reflects the cultural makeup of the school with titles in dual languages, for example:

• Farmer Duck in Russian and English – Martin Waddell and Helen Oxenbury

• My Daddy is a Giant in Polish and English – Carl Norac and Ingrid Godon

• Three Billy Goats Gruff in Arabic and English – Henriette Barkow

• The Gruffalo in Arabic – Julia Donaldson

• The Gruffalo’s Child in Arabic – Julia Donaldson

• Huevos Verdes con Jamon (Green Eggs and Ham) – Dr Seuss

At the end of the first FRED cohort, the school held a closing event to celebrate all the reading the dads had been doing with their children. A total of 25 fathers and father-figures turned up for the event, and their feedback was really positive, both from the interactive feedback session and from the exit forms they filled in. This is what they said:

What if anything did the FRED programme do for you and/or your children?

“I thought I am close to my children in general, but the FRED programme kind of increased the quality time I spend with all my children”

“It helped me to spend more time with child reading all the time”

“FRED has intensify our reading programme which I found very helpful for me and my child”

“Good time spent with my daughter”

“I am reading more with my nephew”

“Improved reading techniques and more involved in my child’s educational issues”

“Improved my relationship with him more”

“Create a different kind of bond around books and reading”

“Contact with other parents”

“Regular reading”

What did you like most about the FRED programme?

“Promoting the awareness to parents about the importance of a father in a child’s life and upbringing especially in education and social skills”

“What I like most about FRED is it make (sic) me read more to my child”

“What I really like about FRED programme (sic) help me to help my son.”

“It help (sic) the rest of my children read more (everyone want (sic) to read to me)”

“We enjoyed reading together”

“Every book [from the book box] and it gives me more hope and it was fun”

“Talking about school with my nephew”

“Learning is more fun reading with my children. My daughter talks about FRED all the time, she likes to read all kind of books now.”

“Improved in pronouncing words and memory”

“Able to read a variety of books in a small space/frame of time. Improve vocabulary and pronunciation.”

“We read every day”

“The programme itself as a whole”

“Encouraging fathers to read more regularly”

“Seeing my daughter read – improving her reading. Did not have this for my son. I think FRED would have helped him.”

“It has a structure to the reading.”

For more information please contact Charlie Rice, Head of Health and Corporate Development, Fatherhood Institute. Tel 07824 888 439, email c.rice(at)fatherhoodinstitute.org.

Download this article as a Word document here: FRED Case Study Jubilee

 

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