From the moment a child is born they begin to learn and absorb information at an incredible rate. From nursery rhymes and stories, which are the building blocks of mathematics and literacy, to developing problem-solving, spatial awareness and social skills, their first teachers are those closest to them: their family or carers. Georgina Kane writes.

Each family comes with its own unique features, its set of values, strengths and stresses. The support network around that core group – their friends, community and wider family – can prove vital in nurturing children and in helping them make the transition to a more formal learning  setting. For a child to thrive at school, he or she needs a safe, stimulating and nurturing home environment.

The resilience of the family unit as a whole, however, can be severely tested by traumatic events such as loss of financial stability, bereavement, parental separation, poor parental mental health, eviction, domestic violence and substance misuse. Where these events impact on a child’s security and their ability to thrive, help from outside the family, ie: the ‘village’ can be crucial.

The Education Futures Trust forms part of the Hastings and Rother village offering a range of services aimed at supporting ‘children and young people……to achieve their social, educational and economic potential’.

Keyworkers, who are funded through individual schools, carry out intensive work with families, helping them to identify positive ways to move forward at the point of crisis, where the stability of the home environment has been perceived to be under threat. Working in close liaison with the school, their work is governed by the needs of the family and may include: supporting families in securing appropriate housing, attending hospital, CAMHs or court appointments, sorting out financial difficulties, locating funding for vital household items or school uniform.

Many of the keyworkers and wider EFT staff are trained in the ‘Triple P’ parenting programme, which is a universal service, offered on an individual or group basis with the objective of promoting positive parenting. The coaching strategies and ‘tip sheets’ used in Triple P help parents to develop a consistency of approach to parenting, which is vital in promoting the attachment and security children need to be able to concentrate and focus on their learning.

Where children need some extra support to raise their self-esteem, help to reduce anxiety or come to terms with loss or bereavement, therapeutic storytelling is offered.

Through parent and toddler groups, which are offered in term-time, pre-schoolers are given the opportunity to explore, play and learn with their peers in a safe and stimulating environment outdoors, helping to prepare them for the school community. Well-known books, such as ‘The Gruffalo’ and ‘Stick Man’ are introduced, often using a rhyming format. Groups such as these can help the parent to feel some cohesion with the community and offer ideas for developing play with their own children.

After school and holiday clubs, such as ‘Go Wild’, ‘Sport for Change’ and ‘The Science of Survival’ support primary school-age children in fostering a sense of independence, adventure and curiosity within safe boundaries, encouraging them to play and relax outdoors.

In a constantly changing, often confusing and frightening world, the participation of the village in raising a child by providing stability and a real sense of belonging within the community becomes ever more vital.

Find out more about EFT on their website www.educationfuturestrust.org, Facebook @EFTHastings or Twitter @EFT_Hastings.

 

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