“I would love as many Kids Matter programmes to run as possible because parents are acquiring skills that are not only changing their lives but the lives of their children – and they’re the lives of tomorrow.” – Fiona Booth, Headteacher
We live and work in a world where we have to choose our words carefully, and I choose this one very carefully: the Kids Matter programme delivered by Tammy (facilitator and school parent) has been transformational for the families that have been part of it.
Our school is a family and we therefore don’t just seek to provide an academic education; we seek to be a lighthouse in our community. We are always looking to work with other partners to improve the lives and school experience of our children and families. Currently, we work with ASDA and their community champions, plus another church group called Roadhog, which stands for House of God on the Road – a double-decker bus that is also our youth centre. We also work with a local allotment and a mental health team that’s based in Boston. We do all of this so that our often very forgotten about parts of society can feel valued, loved, safe, and like there is light and hope in their lives.
Our school vision is ‘Let your light shine’ and since starting a relationship with Tammy and Restore Church, we’ve been lucky enough to really start to flourish and to show people that the light is within them.
Both Tammy and I live where we work. Our community is particularly transient and we offer a stability that enables us to invest in families so that they will feel safe and have limited suspicions surrounding “these outsiders” coming in and doing something to them rather than taking them on a journey side-by-side, hand-in-hand, which is really what Kids Matter has been about.
The slogan of the multi-academy trust of which our school is a part is: ‘Children at the centre of all we do’, and working with an organisation called Kids Matter seemed obvious from the get-go. Although we’ve had our challenges getting a programme up and running, we haven’t had some of the difficulty that often walks alongside relationship building, and that’s because both partners in this relationship wanted it and I guess that’s where we all have to start; with a will to work together. Together with Kids Matter, we committed to making sure that relationships are real and based in integrity, and are actually there to help rather than just a partnership on a piece of paper. As a result, so much unseen success and advantage has come from this.
The initial challenge to running Kids Matter in our school community was getting people to listen because change, newness, is shrouded in suspicion and insecurity. But this fear dissipated with the help of relentless communication – real communication. Trust only comes over time and by doing what you say you’re going to do and by meaning what you say. Tammy would turn up in the queue at the end of the day when school closed and she’d just buddy up to people that she was pointed in the direction of and focus on them, building real relationships.
I keep hearing this phrase in education, “granular steps” – and Tammy took those tiny steps towards building a trusting relationship, a real relationship. The hurdles were soon overcome once families knew social services had nothing to do with Kids Matter. Once they knew it wasn’t “early help” in another name or tac via the back door; that it really, genuinely, was about improving self-confidence, self-belief, giving yourself some time to say, “It’s okay to shout at your children or to feel frustrated at bedtime when they won’t go to sleep” because we can work through that. Not only have the successes have been endless but they are still emerging as we speak.
Our engagement from the parent body at school has increased, sleep routines at home have improved and attendance of children whose parents attended Kids Matter is up. Parents’ medicated anxieties are no longer medicated and are, in fact, being grappled with in a whole new way. We’ve got members of Tammy’s first cohort applying for jobs and we’ve seen a huge increase in chatter at the school gate. One mum would not engage in eye-contact with me at the gate and since finishing the parenting programme with Tammy, she’s recorded things on video for the whole school and for the great-out there to see! We had one mum who had tried to take her life months before and very, very reluctantly stepped into the room the first time (and only did so because she had a person literally on either side of her walking her in) and is now volunteering in school, and in fact, came on a school visit with us just yesterday – she’s like a butterfly that’s just emerged from a cocoon.
So really, the job is going to do itself now because we’ve got that snowball effect of people saying, “I went, I didn’t want to but it’s changed my life.” We’ve had new life and light breathed into our parent body by just this small core who are totally and utterly saved. And those aren’t my words, they’re theirs; when I asked them what they would like me to share about Kids Matter, there was a chorus of, “It saved my life; it saved our family.”
I started by saying that I am going to use the word transformational – that’s why Kids Matter is an integral part of our school community and school family…because Tammy’s invested, we’re invested. The change in the way our parents are starting to see themselves and view education, skills and training has been tangible. I, for one, want as many Kids Matter programmes to run as possible because parents are acquiring skills that are not only changing their lives but the lives of their children – and they’re the lives of tomorrow.
Kids do matter, they are at the centre of everything we do and this is one way that they can shine.