ON THE GROUND: Schools for Parents

Scheme: A network of 40 schools in England and Wales attended by children aged up to five with motor neurone learning difficulties and their parents

Funding: Each network is funded locally by a variety of sources such as trust funds, statutory agencies, lottery grants and fundraising

Objectives: For parents and children to learn, play and have fun together and enhance their self-esteem while promoting skills that can be applied to daily living

Schools for Parents was established 10 years ago by Scope as part of its commitment to children up to five years old, which is one of the charity's four priority areas.

Scope continues to oversee the project and takes an active involvement but Schools for Parents is very much a partnership initiative involving local agencies, professionals, health workers and parents. Indeed, Scope does not dictate where schools will be established. It is left to groups of people from local communities to get together and determine a need so that each school is very much a local effort.

Once they do, Scope then co-ordinates the new network through Ailsa McMahon, Scope national early years adviser (Schools for Parents). It is her role not only to help get the school off the ground but also to develop minimum quality standards, arrange training and offer support. She says: "Schools for Parents has grown steadily over the past decade. It is a dynamic process because of the way it brings together so many local volunteers and groups."

Classes take place in community facilities, which is usually a room either at a local health centre or in a school. The timetable is divided into morning and afternoon sessions: two of the larger networks run a full programme of 10 sessions a week but two or three sessions from Monday to Friday is the norm.

Each school uses the foundation stage of the national curriculum as the basis of its activities, although the exact topics are determined locally. Classes are divided not by age but by cognitive and physical ability and are taken by qualified professionals such as teachers and physiotherapists.

The hallmark of the initiative is the emphasis placed on involving both parent and child in study. McMahon says: "Parents are pivotal to a child's education in the early years and they also learn a great deal that can be applied when they get home."

- For more details contact Scope administrator Cara Davies on 029 20891251.

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