Stirling Council’s recently published parent engagement strategy cited BPC as an example of best practice, and they were nominated for a Parents as Partners in Learning Scottish Education Award. After they spoke at one of our Parent Councils UK workshops, we were keen to catch up with them to learn more about their successes.
We talked to Lucy Fraser, in her fourth year as chair, to find out the difference BPC makes to their school.
Parent taskforce clears snow
Large parts of the country were recently hit by the ‘Beast from the East’, leaving schools facing closures, and Borestone Primary School was no exception, with a red alert warning in the area for the first time in five years, and over 40cm of snow compounding the usual problems of narrow roads and limited parking. Lucy told us the action they took. “Our school was closed for 3 days; then on the Saturday we put a call out to parents on Facebook to see if anyone would come and help us dig the snow out. I don’t think either I or the staff at school realised how many people would come along and help out. I expected 20-40 folk, but on the day we had 50 people (parents, our local community and staff) with snow shovels digging us out! This was after only fifteen hours’ notice.” Harnessing great support from parents is no easy task, and we wanted to find out how they had built up this level of engagement.
A number of BPC’s activities over recent years have developed good will among the school’s parents and local community. Last year BPC worked with the school to promote reading as part of a school improvement plan, which aimed to increase children’s enjoyment and participation of reading. The initiative, and applications for funding, attracted a lot of attention and shares on social media, and even enlisted the help of a parent postie, who delivered flyers to local houses to help spread the word. Lucy explains the success of the Reading Revolution. “It was great for our parents to see how much support there was for their children and reading. We used social media to target a wide audience, which included working parents, who could interact at times convenient for them. There was collaboration and teamwork between staff, parents and pupils. It was fantastic at building relationships, and our communication with the wider community was massively improved.”
Finding a parent travel champion
A few years ago, owing to local budget cuts, the school area lost a crossing patrol lollypop man from one of the main roads. Although there was a pelican crossing, it was on a busy arterial road, leading to parents raising concerns about their child crossing it. The BPC looked for a parent travel champion, but they were unable to find a candidate initially. When they asked again after the Reading Revolution, three volunteers came forward. “That highlighted the difference that engaging with parents in such a big way made,” Lucy said. On tackling this issue of the busy road, the BPC:
- Sent a questionnaire to all parents to canvas opinion
- Following parental feedback, put in a petition to Stirling Council asking them to reinstate the crossing patrol
- Appealed Stirling Council’s decision at a Councillors’ meeting.
At this point, their request to reinstate the crossing patrol was turned down again, but the BPC didn’t give up, especially when the council said they would prioritise the school’s travel plan – but that meant putting one together!
Working with the community council
At the time of BPC’s campaign, the local community council were putting together a strategic plan including traffic and parking-related issues for the local community, enabling the two to collaborate. The newly-appointed parent travel champion worked with the school to survey all children about their routes, establishing exact places where children were crossing the road. The result was that, based on the School’s travel plan, Stirling Council installed two additional crossing points on the busy road. Stirling Council are now consulting with BPC, the School and local community about proposed traffic calming measures. Summarising, Lucy said, “It’s been a three to four year horizon project including the council, our community council, the school, and the parent council. We’ve been delighted with the consultative approach that has been taken.”
Keeping parents involved
The improvements the BPC have made to the lives of all the school’s children has seen the parent council go from strength to strength, and they apply good practice to keep parents engaged. “Four years ago, when I started chairing meetings, we would be lucky to have three or four parents turn out; now we average 10-12 parents at our meetings. I think the level of parental engagement has improved after the awareness raised of the real difference parents can make in school,” Lucy said.
BPC have not rested on their laurels, and last year, they started a climbing club in partnership with Climb Scotland, installing a 12-metre traverse climbing wall at school. Lucy told us how it’s been coordinated. “We were very fortunate that our Parents, School and Community Council were able to support us with funding for a traverse climbing wall. Climb Scotland were fantastic and provided training for twelve parents last summer to be competent climbers; we are now a constituted club and members of Mountaineering Scotland. We’ve been running sessions on a Friday afternoon for the lower school, and we are planning lunchtime sessions for the upper school after Easter.” Not only that, but they’ve also worked with the school in developing its digital strategy and social media policies. They have interviewed children for the post of “digitar” – tasked with supporting digital technology – and accepted presentations from them on what new technology for the school they would like funding for.
With great parental engagement, collaboration with school, local council and businesses, the impact of Borestone Parent Council can be felt throughout the school and the wider community. The results of the parents’ dedication and initiatives have provided pupils with a better school experience – fulfilling exactly what they set out to do.
"Our School is very good at consulting with us and asking opinions of parents. I feel that the school really listen to our ideas, and are enthusiastic and supportive when we want to take on a new project. I think that’s grown as they’ve seen we can engage parents." Lucy Fraser, Borestone Parent Council chair.