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Growing relational homes from within the school gates

It was an exciting day for us recently at WTAC HQ. It was ‘lights, camera, action’ time for filming our ‘How to Coach Parents in Behaviour’ Online Course. This course will be going live in less than a month and we can’t wait. It's always exciting launching a new course, but we feel that this one is coming at such a pertinent time.

From speaking to schools day in and day out, we are very aware that the social contract between families and schools is starting to erode. The Covid-19 pandemic sent out the subliminal message that school is optional, that school is not necessarily the key place to be for children and young people, and that a few days missed here and there is fine. We’ve seen an increase in mental health conditions amongst young people, and sadly that’s something that we most probably have not seen the worst of yet. Some children simply can’t access school due to their poor mental wellbeing, and some children simply don’t want to. Parents are less engaged with schools and are pushing back. The routine has been broken.

We know that so many schools are making great progress in relational practice. We’ve supported so many to reach that point of nirvana (or near enough!). I’m sure that your school is taking a relational approach, or at least you would like it to be, if you’re choosing to read this and engage with our work. Although times are challenging at the moment, we’re seeing the real difference it can make to have a supportive and nurturing school environment. However, this is not enough. Taking relational practice beyond the school gates is needed. Our ‘How to Coach Parents in Behaviour’ Online Course aims to do exactly that.

Through training up ‘Parent Coaches’ within your school community you will have a cohort equipped to help you. They will be able to work with your parent community and ensure that they understand and are onboard with your approach to behaviour. They will have the confidence and means to design and deliver training and workshops to support parents as they develop relational skills. Simply creating a safe and welcoming space for parents to discuss things can make such a difference. The approach you take is completely bespoke to your school and the needs of your pupils and families, including learners with additional needs. The end result will be families on board with what you are doing, who understand the how and why for themselves, so that they can take away their own strategies to create a calm and nurturing home environment.

The impacts are multifaceted and go much deeper than improving the wellbeing, confidence,

security and resilience of your learners or opening up dialogue and building rapport with families. When families engage with schools and both can embrace the relational approach we see improvements in children’s ability to regulate and increased engagement in teaching and learning. Schools with strong parent-community ties and welcoming cultures for parents were found to be 10 times more likely to improve in maths and 4 times more likely to improve in reading (Bryk, 2020).

The WTAC team have recently been doing some parenting work with Oatlands School, an infant school in Surrey. Post-pandemic they had seen a shift in their culture, with learners having problems regulating and accessing the curriculum. The school totally bought into the relational approach and through our training and support have helped to transform the culture within the school. The next step for them was increasing engagement with families and bringing them on board too. A number of parent workshops have taken place at the school and they have even opened up sessions to schools in their cluster so that the thread of relational practice can extend beyond the short time that the children are at the school. The school have fed back the significant changes they have seen in the school culture; including less chaotic adult behaviour at pick up and drop off times, parents being overheard using the language of ‘Ready, Respectful and Safe’, and parents being more willing

to talk about both behaviour and support.

We’ve just received some feedback from a parent who has attended some of the workshops and sessions at Oatlands School:

“As a school SEND governor, and a parent, who has seen the impact of a school following this approach, I can honestly say that we will all see the difference if schools are given the time and space to invest in getting this right, and to support parents in a non-judgemental, inclusive way.”

“The approach is impactful for all children, but it’s hugely impactful for children with additional

needs – particularly those who struggle with emotional regulation, or whose anxiety translates into behaviour that can seem difficult. This isn’t another ‘thing’ to fit into an already over full life – which is particularly important given parents of children with additional needs will already have given up so much of their time fighting for diagnosis, fighting to access the right support, fighting to be an advocate for their child. It’s an approach teachers and parents can weave into their every day. And the power of an inclusive approach is not to be underestimated – this is about working with ALL children and their parents and teachers. Sometimes the basics can be as helpful as the specialist interventions and support.”

We are so delighted that the parenting sessions are making a difference there already and are eagerly waiting to hear how schools get on after doing the course once it launches next month. The process won’t be a rapid one with changes made overnight. The course and approach will take the same 'drip drip drip' approach that has made our training successful. We will be there supporting you along the way, as always.

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