How Pencoed Primary School is developing its Community Focused Schools approaches.
- Pencoed Primary school, Bridgend local authority
- 576 learners on roll
- 21.2% of learners eligible for free school meals over a three-year average (2022)
The role of the Family Engagement Officer
Pencoed Primary school prides itself on playing a key role in the community, supporting parents, carers and children in their formative years and welcoming parents and carers into school to support children’s learning.
Key to Pencoed Primary School’s relationship with their community is the role of their Family Engagement Officer (FEO).
As somebody who grew up in the local community, Rebecca Patrick knows the importance of fostering deep and meaningful relationships with the families that feed into the school.
To make the biggest and most meaningful impact, we needed to start with babies and toddlers. This allows us to engage with our families from birth.
Community Focused School approaches undertaken by the Family Engagement Officer and school
For the past 10 years the FEO has run a ‘baby and toddler group’. This allows parents and carers to attend a safe environment once a week, allowing their children to develop social and communication skills prior to their full-time attendance at the school. This also gives parents and carers the opportunity to:
- speak and socialise with others
- share advice and experiences
- gain confidence to begin engaging with the school environment
- familiarise themselves with the support mechanisms of the school prior to their children’s full-time attendance
To bolster the initiative, after group sessions, a ‘Together Time Library’ is held, reading with the children and fostering an early love for reading.
In addition, a wider initiative, 'The Caterpillar Club,' offers home visits by the FEO and teachers, allowing parents and carers a safe environment to discuss concerns and grow relationships with school staff. Three transition sessions are offered during the Summer holiday so that children and their parents can get to know the school environment, staff and other children and families prior to starting the new term. Parents have fed back how beneficial this has been for both them and their children and makes transition into school a positive experience.
As FEO, Rebecca operates an 'open-door policy.' If any parent or carer has any concerns or questions, she makes herself readily available, making them feel comfortable talking about issues and ensuring their voices are heard in a relaxed setting.
Positive impacts of Community Focused School approaches taken
The ‘baby and toddler group’ has been well received by parents. A regular attendee of the group has been attending for 2 years, since her son was just 2 weeks old, with her elder daughter already in full-time education at the school. She said:
My son has already met his reception teacher, which is rare before even starting school. Rebecca and his teacher-to-be have already planned a home visit to talk to him about when he joins the school, which is really nice.
Reflecting on the positive impacts of the Community Focused Schools approaches taken by the FEO and wider school Rebecca says:
100% of the parents or carers say they wanted to attend more family engagement programmes.
The school has seen a very positive impact on the learning of children. The approach has also made parents and carers feel part of the school community and has helped them learn strategies and gain confidence in supporting their children, not only in the school environment but at home as well.
Developing the Family Engagement Officer role and Community Focused School approaches taken
The school recognises the importance of continuing to develop and expand their Community Focused Schools approaches. This will be informed by the needs and wants of the community, with meetings and questionnaires planned with parents and carers, exploring the additional support they need and suggestions they’d like implemented going forward.
As FEO, Rebecca will take these insights and share them with the Senior Leadership Team, ensuring the programme grows for years to come.
To see the passion of the teachers, parents and carers and the engagement of the children is really special. Making early connections with parents and carers is vital. We will continue to engage the local community, making the school environment welcoming and inclusive for all.