Posted by: southadmin | 08/01/2013

Parents Assembly

2012 Round-Up

 2012 was a very busy year for the Parents’ Assembly, with our work taking us all over the city to meet hundreds of parents, carers, children and young people for a variety of reasons. Our membership numbers leapt up significantly, helped by the creation of an additional ‘arm’ for parents employed by Sheffield City Council – the SCC Parents’ Assembly. We currently have 497 members, many of whom took part in the different projects described in this newsletter. Keep reading for a round-up of everything we have achieved over the past year…

 The Sheffield Parents’ Survey – 1,202 Responses

Between mid-August and mid-November, 1,202 parents and carers from all across Sheffield completed The Sheffield Parents’ Survey; expressing their views about the services that affect them and their families – including schools.

 We launched the survey on 10 August 2012, sending the online link out to the Parents’ Assembly and other contacts and had a good response almost immediately. We met parents at First Points, toddler groups, parents’ evenings, children’s centres, play centres, coffee mornings, libraries, baby clinics and at ESOL classes (where parents did the survey as part of their lesson) and on parenting courses.

 We were invited to events including HomeStart’s 30th Birthday, the South Community Assembly Roadshow (part of Local Democracy Week), a performance by Greentop Circus in the Winter Gardens and Bag A Book Day at Sheffield Wednesday Football Club.

 While we were out and about, online responses flooded in – helped in no small part by our advert being broadcast several times a day on Hallam FM and full page adverts featuring in the magazines Raring2Go and What’s Going On.

 Schools promoted the survey to their parents, our partners regularly tweeted the link and featured it on their Facebook pages while Sheffield International Venues donated a set of free LifeCARDs – which we gave to the first 150 completers and a further random selection after the survey closed.

 Several local businesses donated prizes which we distributed to parents whose names were drawn out of the hat, and we received completed surveys from Hallam FM’s Big John @ Breakfast and Producer James – as well as former Britain’s Got Talent contestant, bellydancer and journalist Sophie Mei.

 Throughout the consultation, we had surveys available in Urdu, Arabic, Bengali, Slovak and Somali, which have been translated for us free of charge by colleagues within the council.

 Finally, the Lord Mayor (Councillor John Campbell), Councillor Jackie Drayton, Councillor Qurban Hussain and Minnie Mouse all agreed to pose for photos to feature on our Facebook page.

 We are grateful to everyone who completed or publicised The Sheffield Parents’ Survey, so many thanks if you’re either or both of those!

The report will soon be available at www.sheffield.gov.uk/sps.

 The Every Child Matters Survey

In summer 2012, the Every Child Matters (ECM) Survey took place with 4,495 children and young people in 54 schools (46 primaries, 8 secondaries) in Sheffield. The consultation was coordinated by Cath Thompson, who said, “The ECM survey helps us to find out what issues are affecting children and young people in relation to their community, school experience, health, safety, recreation, aspirations and a range of other things. The data gathered is used to inform the planning, commissioning and delivery of services across the Council and partner organisations. Schools also use the information for their Ofsted inspections, to establish health priorities and for other development work.”

As the name suggests, the focus of the consultation is around the Every Child Matters five outcomes – Being Healthy, Staying Safe, Enjoying and Achieving, Making a Positive Contribution and Achieving Economic Wellbeing. The topics children and young people are asked about have developed over time and are contributed by Sheffield City Council, NHS Sheffield, South Yorkshire Police, South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue and the Voluntary, Community and Faith Sector.

The year groups involved are Y2, Y5, Y7 and Y10 with a separate piece of work planned with post-16 young people to take place in 2013.

Traditionally a third of Sheffield schools was invited to take part each year, on a rolling programme. In 2012, the invitation was extended to all schools, as a number who had taken part in previous years requested to participate again. The number of children and young people was broken down as follows: Y2 – 1,619; Y5 – 1,682; Y7 – 609; Y10 – 585.           

The questions included in the surveys are largely based on previous years’ versions with some amendments and additions made. New questions are added each year to keep the surveys up to date and topical.

The questions are trialled with children and young people prior to live publication of the surveys. This provides an important opportunity to test which ones work and which require amendment or removal. Ongoing improvements year-on-year have resulted in a set of robust questions which produce reliable results – evidenced by the consistency in responses with percentages being very similar each year.

After receiving their school’s results, School Councils are invited to apply for a £100 project grant to help them take forward something discovered through the survey. A number of exciting and innovative projects have been undertaken by pupils including a seatbelt campaign, healthy eating projects, anti-bullying initiatives, dental health awareness, vegetable growing and more – all of which have enabled them to see their survey results bring about a positive difference in their school and often the wider community.

Cath added, “Children seem to really enjoy doing the survey and they do have a say in the questions we ask. We are currently in the process of feeding back the findings to services, schools and to the children and young people themselves. More importantly, we are working with all those involved to make sure the information is used to make a positive difference.

The overall results from this year’s survey will be online in January 2013.

The SCC Parents’ Assembly

As well as going out into communities this year, we also established a separate arm of the Parents’ Assembly for parents and carers employed by Sheffield City Council (SCC). Within a fortnight of it being established in July, 93 new members had signed up (there are now 114). Many of these listed topics they want to discuss in the future, with the most common being:

  •  Childcare costs and arrangements
  • Special Educational Needs (SEN) provision
  • Schools’ curriculum and attainment
  • Out of school activities
  • Health and wellbeing for children and young people

“We thought a Sheffield City Council strand of the Parents’ Assembly would be a more economical way of consulting and engaging with parents – as well as giving us a greater presence within the authority and increasing our membership,” John Featherstone, Parental Engagement Senior Officer, said.

“Many Have Your Say responses were from SCC parents, several had attended focus groups in the past and a few had joined the central Parents’ Assembly back in 2009 – so there was obviously interest out there. We sent a brief enquiry round to parents and carers we knew – this snowballed – and we had more responses than we expected with 77% saying they would join or consider joining.”

Other advantages to an SCC Parents’ Assembly are ease of communication (internal email and news bulletins), reduced cost to the council on travel (i.e. mileage claims), lower costs on events and accommodation (booking venues), greater visibility within the authority and – as always – another opportunity to give a voice to parents throughout the city.

“We had a fantastic response rate from SCC Parents’ Assembly members to The Sheffield Parents’ Survey,” John added, “and there’s a chance these may never have seen this had we not had such a direct line of communication to them. In 2013, I look forward to reviewing the issues raised by our new members and meeting with them to discuss addressing these in greater detail.”

Parents’ Question Time

In April, we staged Parents’ Question Time at the Megacentre to give Sheffield’s parents and carers the opportunity to pose any questions they had around education directly to professionals. After consulting with the Parents’ Assembly, it was decided the key areas for discussion would be:

  • Early Years
  • Primary Schools
  • Future Schools
  • Special Educational Needs & Disabilities
  • Communications in Schools

 The event was split into two sections.

In the morning, parents joined a workshop based around one of the above areas. In these workshops, they came together with professionals to discuss and formulate questions to put to the panel.

After lunch, the questions formulated in these group discussions (and additional questions) were put to the panel, which included Dr. Sonia Sharp, Cllr Jackie Drayton, Antony Hughes, Sarah Draper (Assistant Directors) headteachers and governors.

Questions were raised around a variety of timely and important issues, such as early years’ childcare provision, information on attainment in primary schools, communicating with parents, protecting children in schools, the curriculum in academies and education for children with Special Educational Needs.

The key point that came out of Parents’ Question Time was the importance of working together – parents, teachers, the council, partners – in the interests of the children in the city.

Sonia Sharp closed the event, saying, “We need resources to make it work, need strong relationships between schools, the local authority and families and a collaborative way of working. Communications need to be strengthened, to be creative, bold and daring. We have to do things we know work but also to be adventurous which can be difficult sometimes. Sheffield City Council is aiming to strengthen the relationships between schools, with the help of the City Wide Learning Body, and the Parents’ Assembly. At the heart of all this is the interest of the children in the City.”

The report from Parents’ Question Time is available on request (0114 205 3902 or parentalengagementteam@sheffield.gov.uk).

 The BME Parents’ Assembly

In May 2012, we held the third meeting of the BME Parents’ Assembly, based around Attendance and Inclusion. Parents discussed the barriers for their children attending school, how to get a school place, whether actually getting their child to school could be an issue and what inclusiveness meant to them – both in schools and in their local community.

Noreen Gallagher, Consultation & Performance Officer, said, “Parents suggested various reasons for non-attendance and possible triggers for exclusion, all of which were supported by evidence and personal experience. For example, one parent said staff and pupils might not have an appropriate level of understanding of the different identities and cultures within their school and therefore aren’t respectful of them – possibly leading to tension.”

However, many ideas were put forward to resolve these issues.

“Developing an inclusive ethos within schools and improving communication with BME families were the main solutions to parents’ concerns,” Noreen added. “The groups suggested that promoting respect regardless of culture and difference, and celebrating multicultural events and festivals could help schools to become more inclusive.”

In 2013, we will be inviting services to tell the BME Parents’ Assembly how they have taken forward the findings from these meetings.

Academies

The government’s Academies Programme moved swiftly ahead in 2012, with 47% of secondary schools and 5% of primaries nationally having converted or in the process of converting to academy status by November. At this time, 43% of Sheffield’s secondary school children were being educated in an academy along with 5% of primary school children.

Earlier in the year, we held five meetings across the city (Worrall, Stocksbridge, Westfield, Norton and Parson Cross) to allow parents to pose any questions they had and to discuss the programme with Dr. Sonia Sharp, Cllr Jackie Drayton and speakers from the Academies’ Trust and the Anti-Academies Alliance.

 Many parents from these communities attended to ask questions around the implications of their children’s schools converting to academies, what this could mean for the local community and what Sheffield’s approach would be.

While the issues around the academies process can be sensitive for parents in communities, several people contacted us after the meetings to thank us – and the authority – for arranging the meetings that allowed measured and informative discussions to take place.

 Local Parents’ Assemblies

 “We are broadening the network of parents and carers we engage with across the city by further increasing our visits to community groups and sessions held in schools for parents,” said Laurie Haynes, Parental Engagement Officer. “We want all parents and carers to be aware of the different ways they can feed their views and experiences into the council’s Parents’ Assembly.

“For example, groups which already have parents attending can feed local issues relating to Sheffield services for children, young people and families into the central Parents’ Assembly. The feedback we receive from local communities across the city informs us of specific topics of interest and the types of opportunities parents wish to be informed of to share their experiences. We are happy to arrange meetings for parents in localities where we have identified or been informed of particular issues or matters parents or carers would like to discuss.

 And The Rest…

The above articles only form a snapshot of what we have done in 2012. There were many other pieces of work we were involved in. For example, we…

Distributed the Free Early Learning (FEL) survey to 2, 500 parents, about the government’s proposals to make accessing the free 15 hours of childcare for parents of 3 and 4 year old children more flexible.

Visited sixth forms and colleges, carrying out the Post-16 Transport Survey on behalf of Sheffield City Council’s Travel Service, with students’ responses being used to help prepare the Post-16 Transport Policy Statement for 2012 / 13.

Met with several of our members around Communication & Engagement between schools and parents (an ongoing piece of work; you will hear more about this in 2013).

Held a series of meetings around the redesign of services (Hearing Impaired, Visually Impaired, Autism), discussing the proposals with groups of parents.

 

Hosted a citywide poster competition on our Facebook page, full of illustrations from children and young people on the theme of Why I Love Going To School.

 

Produced an online parents’ guide to SATs – “Countdown To Success” – in May.

 

Carried out a review of staff and customers’ use of the Parson Cross Learning Zone, asking for the views on the building and its services being provided under the same roof.

 

To everyone – members, partners, colleagues, parents – who has taken the time to attend a meeting, email or call us with their views, complete a survey, drop in for a focus group, invite us to an open day, submit an article for our newsletter or post a link on Facebook, we would like to say a huge THANK YOU.

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