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

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

Sahir Permall

Sahir Permall

Director for Scotland - Sahir leads the Place2Be team to deliver our services in schools and communities across Scotland. A former Maths teacher, Sahir has 15 years’ experience of working in education, policing and the charitable sector, with a focus on supporting all children to thrive.

Place2Be's Director for Scotland, Sahir Permall, reflects on the importance of schools, families and communities coming together to keep the child at the centre. This blog was originally published in The Scotsman.

I rarely receive a more binary response to a question than when I ask someone how their weekend was. One camp looks refreshed and raves about their gin-tasting experience, romantic weekend away, or 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.

When I was a young, idealistic teacher, I vividly remember feeling like I was handing 'my' pupils over to their families for the holidays. Being a parent now has filled that feeling of responsibility 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.

This split is more extreme for children living in the most deprived areas. There is a strong association between socioeconomic background and school absenteeism. Children who already experience educational disadvantage spend less time at school than their more affluent peers. Almost one in four children in Scotland are officially recognised as living in poverty. There are increasing concerns about the number of children who haven't returned to school since lockdowns. The need for those of us 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 supporting the child. However, 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."

There's no silver bullet that alone can make a difference at any age. We should remember this 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. We're going where the evidence is. We've started delivering parent training – PIPT (Personalised Individual Parent Training) – that the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust has developed. 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.

Learn more about Place2Be's work in Scotland.

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