‘It takes a village to raise a child’ – says ex-Olderfleet PS principal

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Increased community and parental involvement could help teachers bridge at least some shortfalls in resources, according to a former Larne primary school principal.

The Ulster Teachers’ Union believes the current period of fiscal restraint is also an opportunity to think holistically about young people’s education.

“Over the last decade schools and teachers have been asked to shoulder a growing responsibility for youth culture with suggestions that many of its problems could be resolved within schools,” said Audrey Stewart of the UTU and former head of Olderfleet Primary.

“However, as the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child. In other words, neither parents nor schools alone should be shouldered with that responsibility. Everyone throughout the community has a role to play.

“Education Minister John O’Dowd made that very point recently when he was launching the final report of the Numeracy and Literacy Taskforce. He said forging strong links between schools and their community was particularly important and that he was keen to work on ways of promoting the value placed on education by society. He said one way of doing this was indeed through greater parental engagement in education.

“Research shows the numerous benefits from well-implemented school and community partnership programmes. They include increased student attendance, higher achievement, a sense of greater security, fewer behavioural problems, and an increase in positive attitudes about school and homework.

“Adult and community participation validates the necessity of school for children and encourages them to study harder.

“Research has also demonstrated an important role for fathers in helping increase student achievement. Children whose fathers are involved with schools have a higher likelihood of getting better grades than those whose mothers alone are involved.

“Because many traditional programmes for parental involvement have really meant maternal involvement, it is important that family and school connection programmes reach out to fathers and work to include them in as many types of school-related activities as possible.

“Schools already often play a key role in the community by volunteering and taking part in important local causes, such as charity fundraisers. Having community involvement in schools helps students feel empowered to take active roles as citizens in their local communities by continuing volunteering even after leaving school.

“There are also benefits to community business involvement in schools. Businesses can benefit students by providing mentoring, shadowing and internship opportunities for students to develop new skills. This brings positive attention to the company from parents in the same community.”