Headlines: May 30th, 2007



Forty one local authorities are to receive special funding which is being targeted at councils in disadvantaged areas, to help parents get more involved in their children’s first years in education. In all nine million pounds is being made available so the authorities can develop new ideas on how to connect with parents and to build on the success of existing initiatives such as children’s centres.

Plans put forward by the authorities include giving parents of under fives learning diaries and albums for their children so they can discuss progress with education professionals. Elsewhere there are proposals to aid parents in using music and singing to encourage their children to speak and listen, the establishment of personal education plans for fostered children and schemes to engage fathers and grandfathers by recording them as they read stories or getting them to organise gardening activities.

The biggest sum, half a million pounds, is being awarded to Birmingham City Council with both Lancashire and Bradford getting 350,000 pounds and six authorities, Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, Tower Hamlets, Newham and Kent receiving 300,000. The minimum grant is 150,000 pounds which goes to 17 councils, and the others get 250,000 or 200,00 pounds to take forward their proposals.

The Government says the grants will be used for training and support for early years staff, increasing capacity to develop such ideas as parental involvement networks, volunteer and outreach programmes and for expanding and improving current targeted programmes where there is evidence these are having an impact . Innovative and effective ideas will be shared with other local authorities at the end of the one year programme.

Children’s Minister Beverley Hughes said, “It is vital that children have a sound basis on which to learn and develop, as well as enjoying time with their parents. These are targeted funds and we hope to see innovative work in reaching vulnerable parents in areas where they need support and encouragement to really get involved in their children’s development.”