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New education campaign aims to help parents unlock children's potential

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A new campaign to help parents maintain support for their children from early years to adulthood has been launched by the Department of Education.

The initiative, titled ‘Give your child a helping hand’, shows parents, carers and extended family how the simplest and often overlooked piece of advice, such as reading to children from an early age, can prove invaluable for a child’s long-term development.

It also aims to empower parents and carers to lay the foundations for children to make a seamless and confident transition from teenage years to adulthood with numerous prospects. 

The message from the department’s campaign is to show it’s never too early to encourage your child - and support should be maintained on a regular basis as they grow up.

Reading to them from an early age, showing an interest in their day at school, talking to them about their homework and helping them make the decisions now that will shape them into the adults they will become are an integral part of the campaign’s message.

They are keen to highlight that a good education opens up a world of opportunities for children and young people, and parental involvement and encouragement plays an essential part from the very early years through to the vital exam stages.  

A few simple actions can make a huge difference to how a child views education and the progress they make throughout their school years.

Amongst the advice, parents will be told how playing counting games and singing nursery rhymes in the early years should not be underestimated as these can have a positive impact on a child’s educational outcome later in life. It is also never too early to read to a child.  

Just hearing a parent’s voice in a one-to-one scenario can engage their attention and provide a learning experience that will stay with them throughout their childhood.

Parental involvement does not stop there. The department’s campaign wants to demonstrate how good attainment at school can open up a world of opportunities later in life, can improve feelings of self-worth and make it easier for a child to continue with their studies or to find work.  

The departments says there is a direct correlation between attendance at school and educational outcomes so it is essential that children and young people attend school regularly.  Parents also play a vital role in supporting their children to make the best choices for their future and to plan for their future education and career.  

Parental interest and encouragement has been a strong predictor of a child’s educational success, the department believes. The education system wants parents to actively support them to deliver the best possible outcomes for all the children of Northern Ireland.

The following advice, central to the campaign, can be empowering for children and their parents:

1. Teenage years 

Talk to your teenager about school and their options. As a parent, you can make an enormous difference to your child's chances of success in school and in their later life. Working in partnership with your child's school can help them to succeed. 

2. Subject choice

In Year 10 your teenager will pick the subjects to study in Years 11 and 12. The subjects they choose may impact on their choices later in life so it helps to know what qualifications are needed if they have a career in mind.

3. Support and encouragement

As your child progresses through post primary school, they will need your support and encouragement to help them choose the right subjects and plan their future careers. By talking to them about what they enjoy and discussing with their school what pathways may be open to them, you can help your child achieve better outcomes and reach their full potential.

4. Work Experience

Work experience involves going on a short term placement with an employer to observe and work alongside people as they go about their daily tasks. Your teenager will develop skills and learn more about the kind of career they would like to do and the world of work. Talking to your child about the benefits of work experience can help them to understand how useful it can be. 

5. Exams

Before your child receives their exam results, it might be a good time to have a conversation with them to find out what their expectations are and tell them that whatever their results, you will support them. If your child does not get the results they hoped for, reassure them that they still have many options open to them though it might just mean that they take a different route to get the career they want. The most important thing is not to panic.

6. Careers

Careers education is taught in all post primary schools across Northern Ireland. Careers teachers increase your child’s knowledge of the world of work and develop their employability skills. Discuss the careers advice your teenager gets at school and help them make the best subject choices that will shape their future. 

7. Careers information and advice

For impartial, all-age careers information and advice speak to a careers adviser. They are based in careers resource centres, jobs and benefits offices and job centres throughout Northern Ireland.

8. Peer Pressure

Talk to your child about peer pressure and going with the crowd. Help them remember that giving in to negative peer pressure can impact on their education, job prospects and they could get a criminal record. 

9. Feelings

Remind your teenager it is important to talk about how they feel. Sharing their feelings will help them deal with them when they are good and also when they are not so good. Access to independent professional counselling support is also available for all young people in post-primary schools during difficult and vulnerable periods in their lives if required. 

10. Worries/Concerns

If your child is anxious or worried about issues either inside or outside school, encourage them to talk to you, other family members, their friends or a teacher. Not getting the help they need can have a huge effect on their education. Remind them “you can always ask for help”.

11. The importance of sleep

Teenagers need between 9 to 10 hours sleep each night and younger children even longer. Sleep is more than a period of rest. Sleep brings many health benefits; it improves your teenager’s memory and mood and makes them more alert. Develop a good routine at home.

12. Social media

Talk to your teenager about using social media. Remind them that once something has been put online it can have huge implications later on in life. Talk to your teenagers about how to stay safe online.  

13. Attendance 

Encourage your children to go to school as there is a direct link between attendance and attainment. 

School attendance is vital because even the very best teachers struggle to raise the standards of children who are not in school regularly. Remember “Miss School = Miss Out”.

14. Parental engagement

Positive support from you and a willingness to engage with your child’s school will make a significant contribution towards them reaching their full potential.

For more information visit nidirect.gov.uk/helping-hand

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