Education news

Parents and volunteers congratulated at Stormont

Ashfield Boys' High School, Belfast

SCHOOLS that improved their pupils' reading ages by encouraging parents to become more involved have been celebrated at Stormont.

PTA NI received Executive funding to set up groups using parents in schools in Belfast and Carrickfergus where volunteering was not the norm.

The pilot projects were found to have benefited pupils when parents became more involved.

Representatives from four schools were congratulated at an event in parliament buildings for their work during the Building Stronger Communities through School Volunteers programme.

St Vincent de Paul PS in Belfast introduced, with parents, Reading Partnership Training. This left them qualified to support literacy in the school by mentoring children who were not quite reaching their literacy potential. The results were significant with some children improving in their reading age of up to two years with just 10 weeks of mentoring.

Ashfield Boys' High School in Belfast introduced a functioning community garden that will allow the school to offer Horticulture BTEC for sixth formers.

Breda Academy in Belfast has a growing PTFA (parent, teachers and friends association) engaging more parents and carrying out fundraising activities. They collaborate with school departments to help direct their volunteering efforts. This includes working closely with the careers department to hold events to support pupils to make informed GCSE subject choices and consider a range of career paths.

And, Woodlawn PS in Carrickfergus engaged parent volunteers in the reading partnership training to support literacy schemes in the school.

Jayne Thompson, Programmes Manager for PTA NI, said it was heartening to see the importance of parental engagement being recognised by education specialists and politicians.

"Working closely with parents is vital if we are to raise attainment and aspirations in our young people," she said.

"The volunteers have shown great dedication and commitment which has rightly been recognised and we hope their successes will encourage others to get involved in their own schools to benefit children around the country."

Education minister Peter Weir said parent-teacher associations made a wide ranging contribution to many aspects of school life.

"We have many excellent, highly dedicated teachers who work hard to ensure that our children and young people receive a high quality education - but they cannot do this in isolation," he said.

"They need the support of parents and communities to ensure that children are supported to achieve to their full potential. Schools cannot offer the range of extra-curricular activities and events, which help develop children in a holistic manner, without the help of volunteers."

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