FAST forward to a better start

Summer time in London is well-known for oven temperature tubes and people squashed into little green spaces like sardines. But, when I think back to the summer just gone, I remember something quite different.

Between May and June, I was part of a FAST Team in north London. I took part in each of the eight weekly sessions and worked hard to support families, some of whom did not have very strong relationships with the primary school, to make food, to meet new friends and to spend quality time with their children.

But, the proof is always in the pudding, as they say. We have just received our first evaluation – and FAST was a huge success across the UK. An amazing 86% of families that came completed the full programme, and it supported parents and schools to be closer connected.

A fantastic 88% of parents say they are now more able to support their child in education, and teachers report that the children are behaving better in class and that their achievement in reading, writing and maths has gone up.

FAST is also strengthening family relationships, with 78% of parents expressing that they have a better understanding of their children and less conflict in the home.

It is also enabling parents to make new friends; 74% of parents saying that they now have more social support with their local community.

I really enjoyed being part of the FAST team and getting to know all the children and families involved. There were lots of highs, such as seeing children who were really quite introverted at first coming out of their shells to take part in all the activities, as well as sharing jokes with parents, not least about my dodgy ‘singing’ (thanks FAST song!)

But, the entire experience is made all the sweeter by knowing that what felt right at the time, was making a real difference. The tide is turning towards more support for evidence-based, early intervention programmes.

We are putting everything we’ve got into making sure that governments across the UK prioritise proven programmes, such as FAST, so that children living in poverty are given a fairer start at school, and the shameful early childhood “achievement” gap shrinks, once and for all.

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