Parents back in class to up literacy skills

SOARING numbers of parents are “going back to school” to boost their reading and writing as an innovative project aimed at some of the Capital’s poorest communities bears fruit.

Picture: Greg Macvean

Nearly 1000 mums and dads have enrolled in learning schemes through nurseries, primary schools and other early years centres over the 2012-13 session – up from around 850 the previous year and 480 in 2009-10.

And around half are approaching staff for help with literacy and other ­training needs, as they seek a much more active role in their ­children’s education.

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The trend towards greater parental involvement in joint learning projects such as the Lighthouse Keeper’s Lunch has been hailed by city chiefs, who said it would boost efforts to improve prospects for the poorest performing youngsters.

Family learning worker Barbara Middleton, based at Castleview Primary, said: “It’s a journey for the parents who come in with their kids.

“I think the approach works because the nursery or primary school is an open and welcoming environment – parents say it reduces isolation for them.”

Although family learning services have been offered across the city for years, project leaders said they had been taken aback by the recent acceleration as hundreds more parents take an interest in what their children are learning in class.

The jump in demand from parents for specialist help with reading, writing and numeracy will also help when it comes to teaching children at home, they added.

“More often than not, ­parents say they are more ­confident in supporting their own child’s learning,” said Ms Middleton.

“And through that, they can access other learning opportunities – one of which is dedicated literacy and numeracy. It’s about them realising they have learning needs of their own through being involved in their children’s learning.”

City education chiefs said the family learning drive was a key element in efforts to boost opportunities for all of ­Edinburgh’s children.

Councillor Paul Godzik, the city’s education leader, said: “The increase in people taking part in family learning shows how successful the various projects have been and that they have been going from strength to strength.

“Literacy is a key element of Curriculum for Excellence and initiatives like the Lighthouse Keeper’s Lunch aim to give our young people a love of ­reading.”

‘It helps you understand all the steps’

JEANNIE Clarkson, 32, said family learning had boosted mums and dads who struggled to help their children after suffering a negative experience when they were young.

And although the mum-of-four from Niddrie, pictured with son Michael, has not signed up for literacy coaching during her children’s time at Castleview Primary, she said she knew many parents for whom getting help had made a huge difference.

She said: “We have Polish and Asian-speaking mums, who have not been able to learn English fully, and other parents who need help with language are coming in as well.

“The problem before was that when your kids went to school, that was it – you wouldn’t see them again until the end of the day.

“Now we’re coming in and going through the steps they go through with sounds and numbers. It makes it all more comfortable and you understand it.”