While talk of the Lib-Con coalition has been dominating the headlines, we’ve launched a unique coalition of our own. Save the Children is now working in partnership with Families and Schools Together (FAST), a parental engagement, community strengthening programme, endorsed by the United Nations.
Through the programme we’re enabling parents with young children (aged 3-5) for the first time to access FAST across the UK.
Originally developed in the US by Dr Lynn McDonald, Professor of Social Work at Middlesex University, FAST is voluntary and has been proven to give children a fairer chance to succeed at school, to live in stronger families and in stronger communities.
So what is FAST? It’s a coaching programme that helps families to meet and get to know other local parents, to cook a family meal and sit down together to eat it, to help parents to communicate better and to read and play with their children. It also supports parents to build links with their child’s school. 94% of parents who come to try FAST in the UK go on to take part in the programme until the end.
Our research shows a critical gap in local, universal services for parents with children moving from pre-school to primary school. It also demonstrates a clear need for parents to be able to access services proven to help them enhance children’s learning and development in ways that translate into better educational outcomes in the short and long-term. We believe that by backing FAST we can work with deprived communities to give more children a fair chance to succeed at school by raising their attainment levels and thus a greater opportunity to gain good qualifications in the future and obtain a well-paid job with prospects. Between now and 2014, Save the Children aims to set up more than 400 FAST schemes around the UK and provide access to FAST training for 8,000 local parents, community members, service providers and school professionals.
As we build up a picture of positive impact from across the UK, our aim is to persuade governments to endorse FAST and to improve access to the programme so that education really does guarantee a route out of poverty for millions more children.