Family Learning Zone, North Ayrshire

Below is a recent Q and A with Parent Link Volunteers Shona and Jen, who have been involved in setting up a fantastic Family Learning Zone at their local primary school.

How did you first get involved with Parent Network?

S:  Mine was through the early year’s nursery for St Bridget’s and an option came up to join in so I can along.  The way the facilitator did the first session was great, she was bubbly and full of energy it was perfect.  It went off from there and we got a choice about going onto the course so we went onto that.

J:  I went to a PM course at the school.  The nursery teacher suggested I pop upstairs to a “wee course” so I wandered upstairs and sat down and that was me on the course.  I ended up loving it, I wish I could attend the parenting matters course again as I had so many lightbulb moments.  I kept on the PNS training as I loved it so much.

What about the Development Award, what are your memories from that course?

J:  I remember a lot it came at the exactly the right time for me.  I was about to start a job for facilitating and everything in that course was so useful.  I was so nervous about getting the job but after my Development Award I felt so ready and trained.  It helped me publicly speak and work in groups.  We still do our Check in (with our groups) and I have taken that forward.

S:  I enjoyed ice breakers and I had to do my own one!  I remember the one that asked questions like:  Would you lose your hair or lose your teeth and you had to choose which one!  It was so funny, loads of laughter.  You had to pick up side.

After the Development Award Shona and Jen embarked on the Parent Link Volunteer programme where they…

J:  We got to design our own group agreement.

S:  We didn’t know anything about group agreements, working with groups and the logistics behind it.  It helped us with that and has supported us to do what we are doing now.

J:   “Lots from the PLV programme has helped, and long-term I want to be working with you guys.  It is a goal of mine.  Doing the PLV training with you guys has made me realise what I want to do.  All I knew was caring because that’s what I used to do.  I kept following courses with you and watching the parent facilitators and watching them thinking that’s what I want to do.  It has all been a great experience and the Community Achievement Award is an actual qualification which will help me show what I have achieved.  I know now how to be a facilitator.  I enjoy teaching people things to be people and watching them develop.  I get a lot from it and although I am so busy I will always make time for it because this is what I want to be now.  I feel like I am building up my CV now and I finally understand how groups work!  Every person is different so every group is different.  I have my own toolbox and I can take this into groups now.”

So how did you get involved with the Family Learning Zone?

Jen and Shona: “We noticed that there was a gap at our local PS, the parents were wanting to do something, they were wanting space and time to chat.  We heard from Carol the project worker from the Family Learning Team, she was planning to build something in their school but they didn’t know what it was going to be and look like it depended on the parents.  We fed back to her our ideas over a sausage roll and we started to get posters up on walls and tried to get parents interested.  The first group was the crochet club which is now a weekly established activity.

One week the parents were discussing how one of the children wasn’t eating different things so they thought let’s try and create an opportunity when they are all eating together. So, we got the families all together and the kids would get a sticker for the foods they tried.  That was all based on one parent sharing their concern in the space.  The whole point of the FLZ is to have a space where parents can say what is going on with them and then they can make a group effort to make something happen.

A few parents are now finding themselves going to job seekers and this is a concern with some of the parents.  So, we have invited in the DLA to share transferrable skills and how to best sell yourself on a CV and will run a very practical session.

Another area we have helped support is learning with your child.  Parents were getting anxious about homework, particularly in P7 so the FLZ is looking to set up a homework support group.  Did you know subtraction is called Deconstructing a number?  Everything has changed!  A couple of teachers have offered to come in and show the parents how they are teaching the children so the parents can help at home.  “Anything that can help kids to learn is a good thing”

We have a regular 12 parents coming into the zone but the whole idea is anyone is welcome to join at any time.  Anyone can be part of it it’s for the whole school!  The usual parents who attend are helping to shape it, you don’t have to be a member or sign up just come along to any of the activities that attract you. 

A big part of the FLZ is provide the space to talk, it still has the ethos of PNS with our check ins and sharing what is going on with us.  That’s so valuable!  Continuing to be part of our PLV group and being part the network of Parent network Scotland is great.  It keeps us refreshed and topping up our skills.  We would love to attend the PLV network training opportunities.

Being mentored by PNS is helping us to top up our skills, it is helping us to learn more things and being able to talk things out really helps.”

Further Quotes:

I’ve enjoyed so much”

It’s great, it’s good for you and it’s an eye-opener an insight into what you want, what you want to do and that everyone is the same as you.”

We have seen so many people blossom on the PLV program”

I think every parent in Scotland has to attend a Parent Network Scotland course, it was so positive and you recognise yourself in every part of it”

There are not many courses out there telling you it’s ok to be you and to fill your cup up!”

Our family learning zone helps me to fill my cup up”