Community and School working together: Eastside Learning and Knocknagoney Primary School

Key summary

Knocknagoney Primary School traditionally has a strong parental engagement ethos, and are keen to work closely with the community to maximise opportunities to support parents within their school. This was included in their development plans along with addressing underachievement. Here, Barbara from Eastside Learning tells us how they worked with Knocknagoney and other schools in East Belfast to develop and implement collaborative training and activities that built the capacity of parents, to not only support their own children in their learning, but also enabled them to volunteer in the school to support wider underachievement outcomes.

Barbara explains “parents are an additional asset to support teachers and classroom assistants; working one to one with children to support reading. We were pleased to provide training for around 15 parents and classroom assistants from Knocknagoney Primary to undertake Reading Partnership training, through the Social Investment Fund. This was a three-day course that equipped participants with the tools to support children, on a one to one basis, who were not meeting the reading bands of peers in their class”.

Six parents went on to gain Open College Network (OCN) accreditation and provide Better Reading Partnership (BRP) support in the school with allocated children targeted for additional support. Barbara goes on to describe the positive effect this has had: “the literacy coordinator reported positive increases in the children’s reading, ranging from four months to two years increase in reading age. Two parents who trained and delivered BRP developed ambitions to become classroom assistants and have since gained employment in local schools”.

Knocknagoney Primary School also has experience of bringing in partners to deliver parent programmes, including Incredible Years. Working with the school to help embed these programmes and ensure sustainability of delivery, Eastside Learning resourced the collaborative training of teachers and classroom assistants in Incredible Years and Families Connect along with other staff from across the area. Barbara describes the outcome by saying “this has helped to build the capacity within the school to engage parents in evidenced-based programmes that support them to support their children in their learning and emotional wellbeing; as a result parents programmes can now be delivered in house requiring fewer external resources, and parents are more informed and able to engage their children in play and learning opportunities that have a positive impact on attainment”.

A community-based ABC Club, providing structured literacy support for Key Stage Two children was also established in the community centre local to the school. This was supported by a classroom assistant from Knocknagoney Primary who liaised with the teachers to identify children who were underachieving in literacy. Barbara reports that “the school are hugely supportive of this intervention which also engaged the parents in learning activities as part of the support. Children are making improvements not only in their literacy but also in their confidence”.

Eastside Learning continued to run family learning visits and workshops for Knocknagoney parents in the community during the summer time, with the assistance of a local classroom assistant who continued to communicate with the parents and maintain the continuity of parental engagement during the non-term times.

The level of parental involvement in this school is very impressive with obvious value placed on parental engagement, and time, given to support the school and children. Investment in staff and parent resources have been utilised to the benefit of the children and families. Knocknagoney’s relationship with Eastside Learning and the community has helped to involve more parents in additional activities that support childrens’ learning, evidenced in increased participation in and outside of school.

Fact File
  • PTA name:
  • School name: Knocknagoney Primary School
  • Age range: 4-11
  • Country: Northern Ireland
  • School type: Primary

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