Families and Schools Together (FAST) has been working with primary schools across England for several years – delivering the programme to 6,160 families and 12,578 children between 2010 and 2014.
However, Greenwood Academy in Birmingham has been running the 10-week programme as part of a pilot for the Children Society’s Lottery-funded Headstart programme.
The aim of FAST is to provide effective early intervention to support children’s learning at home. The programme consists of weekly meetings, talks and activities involving children, their parents, siblings and school staff.
At Greenwood, a group of year 7 students and their families have been involved in the programme since March and eight families attended a special “graduation” ceremony at the school last month. Also involved were Greenwood students, from year 10, who acted as “peer mentors” for the younger children.
Parent Sharron Harris and her son Leo, 11, who has been diagnosed with ADHD and autism, took part in the programme. She said: “Leo had a bad time at his previous school where he was bullied. He was hyperactive and would say whatever came into his head. He ended up being the little boy in the corner, very quiet, very isolated and without any good friends.
“I was a bit dubious about FAST at first but since that first time when we were all there singing that FAST song it has been amazing. To look at him now, he is a changed boy and has met lots of friends through the programme and thinks more about the feelings of other children and their families. It’s been a lot of fun too, plus having the school involved made it a supported and safe environment.”
Greenwood headteacher Harry French added: “We’re always looking to strengthen our links with both parents and the wider community; the work we do in school is so much more successful with support from those who take care of our students outside of school. I’m delighted this initial FAST programme has worked so well for the eight families who took part; it’s been a real success for everyone involved.”
Anna Robinson, FAST programme manager at the Children’s Society, said: “It is fantastic to see the difference FAST has made to these children and families at what is a vital yet challenging time in their upbringing. The importance of the relationship they have with their parents and siblings cannot be underestimated.
“Preventing mental health issues through resilience programmes is crucial so early intervention like this is crucial and schools are an accessible and trusted setting.”
The Headstart programme is commissioned by the Children’s Society using £500,000 in Big Lottery funding and aims to improve children’s mental health resilience and their ability to cope with challenges in their lives.
The FAST programme is licensed to Middlesex University. For more, visit http://familiesandschoolstogether.com/