We’ve got to join the dots between home and school - Sahir Permall

I rarely receive a more binary response to a question than when I ask someone how their weekend was. One camp look refreshed and rave about their gin tasting experience, romantic weekend away or their long lie-ins. The other – those with children – well, they swapped one kind of hard work with another. Joyful, yes, but there’s no doubt that caring for children is hard work.

Sahir Permall is Director for Place2Be Scotland.
Sahir Permall is Director for Place2Be Scotland.

When I was a young, idealistic teacher, I vividly remember feeling like I was handing ‘my’ pupils over to their families for the holidays. As a parent now, that feeling of responsibility has been flipped on its head. As crucially important as school is, children spend only 15% of their time there, with 85% spent at home or in communities.

For children living in the most deprived areas, this split is more extreme. There is a strong association between socioeconomic background and school absenteeism, meaning that the children who already experience educational disadvantage are spending less time at school than their more affluent peers. With almost one in four children in Scotland officially recognised as living in poverty, and increasing concerns about the number of children who haven’t returned to school since lockdowns, the need for those of us who are working with children to take whole school approaches - that work with the full system around the child - is crucial if we are to have an impact.

In places where schools are located, they are often the biggest, most trusted and best funded institutions, meaning they are uniquely positioned to be anchors in their communities. School should play a crucial role in joining the dots in the support around the child. However, as a recent report from the Poverty Alliance and The Robertson Trust points out: "…the poverty related attainment gap can't be tackled by schools working alone, but by a holistic approach taking into account economic, social and relational factors…building a strong infrastructure of support around schools, families and communities." While there is no silver bullet that alone can make a difference at any one age – something we should remember in an age of quick fixes, short term political cycles and siloed funding– a close look at the evidence will point us in the right direction for making long-term, systemic change.

The most robust evidence takes us back to the importance of supportive parenting. Place2Be is a charity that has championed early intervention and prevention for over 20 years in Scotland, and we are going where the evidence is. We have started delivering a parent training – PIPT (Personalised Individual Parent Training) – that was developed with the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust. PIPT aims to promote positive child/parent relationships, and improve prosocial behaviour. Interim evaluation is promising, and suggests this is more effective than counselling outcomes with these children. As children go into their final term of the school year, it’s worth us all trying to join the dots between school and home, always keeping the child at the centre.

To learn more about Place2Be’s work, email [email protected]. Place2Be is grateful for its generous supporters, including the Players of the People’s Postcode Lottery.

Sahir Permall is Director for Place2Be Scotland.

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