For the past 12 years, parents and guardians across Barbados have been making their presence felt within the school system through the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development’s Parent Support Programme.
According to Education Officer, Wendy Small, the programme, which commenced on September 3, 1996, is “designed to secure the assistance of parents/guardians of a pupil of the school on a voluntary basis. It is also designed to support an appropriate programme in public infant and primary schools and special education programmes or classes.”
Pointing out that the initiative was “working well” in schools, Ms. Small revealed that “ideally, the Ministry would like to have one volunteer in every school. We still have some schools without volunteers. We are hoping to see principals put measures in place where there can be continuity in terms of the selection of new volunteers,” she explained.
The programme, which has approximately 51 parents involved, seeks to fulfill a wide cross section of objectives. These include: to support the early learning activities of children, the involvement of parents as partners in the children’s learning and development and to encourage a higher level of community involvement. It also attempts to promote parent/child/teacher joint interactions, to provide parent volunteers with opportunities for personal growth and self development, as well as the fostering of a strong sense of networking between the school and the community.
Participants in the programme are required to volunteer at least 10 hours per week and, according to Ms. Small, are generally “very keen and cooperative.” The role of the volunteer, she added, includes providing support for the nursery class teacher in promoting appropriate practice for early childhood education and encompasses areas such as general interaction with students, and helping the class teachers with indoor/outdoor activities. There is also emphasis on encouraging good habits and values and assisting the teacher with compiling portfolios for children’s assessment.
Ms. Small pointed out that persons selected for the programme should have a child enrolled at the school and be willing to volunteer their time for a maximum period of four years. “Parents or guardians should also enjoy working with young children and exhibit a high degree of tolerance and patience, exhibit a relatively good command of Standard English, be friendly, courteous and energetic, as well as be willing to give unsparingly of their time,” she outlined.
The Education official further pointed out that the students are not the only beneficiaries of the initiative, as parents continue to benefit from training programmes/workshops offered by the Ministry. They also attend tertiary institutions to complete various Caribbean Examinations Council exams.
“We have seen many successes within the programme. Some parents go on to gain employment in various areas of the public sector including the police service and teaching…we also see some parents going on to pursue studies at the University of the West Indies,” she noted.
As it seeks to expand and improve, the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development’s Parent Support Programme continues to benefit students, teachers and parents as it seeks to take learning to a new level.