An interview with Ruth Hart Head of Infants at Greenacre School
We all know how vitally important it is for parents and school to work together. Ruth Hart, Head of Infants at Greenacre School for Girls in Banstead, tells us about the Home Learning Project for Nursery and Reception children, a new initiative that has recently been launched by Surrey Early Years’ and Childcare Service. Greenacre is one of only two schools in the area currently piloting the scheme.
The scheme was introduced at Greenacre in the autumn term and its aim is for the school to support parents to ensure that the time they spend with them, is educational and fun. It helps parents involve their children in home learning activities that stretch a child’s mind.
The programme is designed to help all parents, but is especially supportive of working parents with young children. It covers some of the routines that parents regularly experience with their children and helps them to ensure these times are a positive influence for learning, development and achievement through warm, loving, activities such as play, talking and reading. Learning through play is very important for young children - and, according to Mrs Hart, learning is more effective and meaningful when children are participating in
She comments: “As a school, the scheme helps us to cement the partnership that we have with parents. We support them to enhance their children’s achievements in their daily routine
and get them involved in their learning.”
This is undertaken through a series of workshops that show how everyday activities can promote learning. Teachers are given a framework by the Surrey Early Years’ and Childcare Service, with suggested subjects and activities. These involve routine activities such as shopping, meal times, bed time, bath time, quality time and out and about.
During Greenacres’s first meeting, a consultant from the Surrey Early Years’ and Childcare Service, together with the Nursery and Reception teachers, introduced parents to the background of the scheme and how it ties in with the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum. Six meetings are planned in total throughout the
At the beginning of each meeting, teachers give a short presentation around the subject and then parents discuss the topic and any specific concerns. Parents then carry out an activity which they can do with their child at home. The first meeting revolved around food shopping. Every parent knows how stressful a shopping trip to the supermarket can be with a small child in tow. The teachers set up a shopping activity with parents, which they could repeat with their children at home. The simple and fun task demonstrated how to involve their children in planning a shopping trip and make shopping activities into a valuable and fun learning experience for their daughters.
The next meeting has already been planned - it will tackle mealtimes. The meetings are enjoyable and social occasions, where parents can chat with each other and teachers about the everyday problems they encounter with their children.
Mrs Hart comments, “We also discussed how important it is for parents to let us know when their child learns something new at home, for example if they rode their bike independently for the first time. We like to know their achievements outside school so that we can add this to their learning journals and celebrate their successes.”
The benefits to the parents, school and most importantly, the children, are manifold. It helps to provide the children and parents with a much more positive experience in every day routines which can sometimes be quite tricky at home. The activities help to make tasks fun for both children and their parents.
Mrs Hart gives an example: “Mealtimes can be a battleground or a big game to young children, which parents can sometimes find very stressful, particularly when the child doesn’t cooperate. The activities help them to remove the stress out of the situation and make it much more enjoyable.”
The project also has a very positive impact on speaking and listening skills as it can provide opportunities to extend their vocabulary and engage the children’s interest. It helps build on the school-parent partnership and teachers sharing good Early Years practice with parents can be of a real benefit to both.
Parents find the social atmosphere of the meetings extremely helpful. It gives them an opportunity to share similar problems with each other, so that they don’t feel that they are alone in their experiences.
The scheme so far has been very successful at Greenacre, with a high percentage of parents attending and participating. Mrs Hart added: “We are hopeful that the scheme will be ongoing at Greenacre and that other schools, nurseries and playgroups in the area will take it up.”
She concluded: “It was an extremely positive experience for both the parents and teachers. We tried to make it a useful session for our parents. Every parent enjoyed participating and said that they would be trying out the activities at home with their children.”