Lesson in parent power

PARENTS are going back to school, thanks to a headteacher who has allocated them a space to call their own. Hilary Cliff wanted to make parents feel more welcome at Camps Hill Primary School in Stevenage and came up with the plan for a Parents Lounge. Sh

PARENTS are going back to school, thanks to a headteacher who has allocated them a space to call their own.

Hilary Cliff wanted to make parents feel more welcome at Camps Hill Primary School in Stevenage and came up with the plan for a Parents' Lounge.

She hoped that mums and dads would become more involved in the school community if they had a special place in which to meet.

And what started as a room to chat and share parenting tales rapidly became much more.


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The lounge began two years ago under the guidance and enthusiasm of Mrs Cliff.

She said: "We were very keen to have a close working partnership with parents.

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"I think it's really important that they have somewhere that's theirs and that they feel comfortable in school."

Two years on and the room is a hub of activity, offering all sorts of opportunities for parents and children alike and Mrs Cliff is eager to promote a learning ethos for the room.

She continued: "All of us are learners, staff, parents and children and we can all learn together.

"We now run all sorts of courses and there's always something going on, so it's a very well used facility.

"Health advisors use the room and run a fortnightly drop-in session for parents to talk to them and discuss issues or just chat.

"There's also a drop-in session for children and they hold courses, such as Why Does My Child Do That? which deals with behavioural issues and a course on healthy lifestyle has previously been offered.

"These are just a couple of examples, we hold many more.

"We also have a growing library with a whole variety of books available to parents, including books on health, parenting and games to play with the children.

"It's all nicely to hand and we take every opportunity to involve parents and they're really using the room."

Alongside learning and education for everyone, there is also the chance for parents at Camps Hill to get to know each other, and their children's school, better.

Mrs Cliff said: "The Parents' Lounge is forming much closer relationships between parents and staff and there's a big change in people getting involved.

"For example, over 170 parents joined in with a big coffee morning in aid of Macmillan Cancer Relief last year.

"Over the year, the majority of parents come down and join in.

"A lot of parents are quite isolated in the community so the Parents' Lounge is a great opportunity to socialise with other parents.

"There's still a long way to go but we're greatly encouraged."

Mrs Cliff highly recommends the Parents' Lounge concept to other schools and has recently given presentations to different groups of heads and governors, promoting the benefits.

She said: "It has been very well received, so it's all about encouraging other schools to do something similar.

"It's a lot of extra work but it is well worth it.

"I managed to get extra funding to set it up initially so it's all free for parents and I think it's now very valuable.

"For the future we have even bigger plans and we've applied for various grants and there are lots of things in the pipeline.

"The best thing to come out of it is greater involvement for parents and that they don't feel awkward about coming into school.

"I hope they feel at home and relaxed in the room.

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