From the Press

Parents as First Teachers Celebrates its 30th anniversary in the UK

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In the late 1980s, a First School in the Buckinghamshire, England county in the United Kingdom sought to help children grow and learn happily and successfully as they moved on to their next school with confidence and optimism. The school recognized that doing this involved not merely teaching the 3Rs but also working with the parents to develop in the children responsibility for themselves and towards others.

However, the Head Teacher at the school recognized that the majority of pupils in the school were ‘catching up’ from the moment they walked in the door.

“I knew that parents wanted the best for their children, but they had not known how to prepare them for school and that made me both sad and frustrated,” she said.

In 1991, that Head Teacher heard about a program in the United States called Parents as Teachers. Realizing the importance of the first three years of life in the child’s development and the role the parent played as their child’s first and most influential teacher, she knew then that she wanted to implement a program that supported parents so that their children came to school more ready to learn.

She was so moved by the Parents as Teachers concept that she traveled to St Louis, Missouri, headquarters of the Parents as Teachers National Center, to undertake the Parents as Teachers training. In September 1991, she returned to the UK and started the program in her school as a pilot project.

“I subsequently found myself delivering a presentation about the program to the Thames Valley Police,” she recalled. “They were looking at measures for crime prevention. Whilst I was anxious that Parents as Teachers did not get labeled as a crime prevention program, I also knew that research in the USA had found that where young people had been part of an early intervention pre-school program, they were less likely to enter into crime and I said this in my presentation.”

Among other people at the event was the director of an organization working with troubled youths. The day after her presentation, the Head Teacher received a call from the director who said that his trustees wanted to offer financial support to her program.

“It was at this point that Parents as Teachers reverted in the UK to the original U.S. name of Parents as First Teachers (which has caused confusion ever since!),” she said.

Although the name is different, Parents as First Teachers offers the same evidence-based home visiting model as do Parents as Teachers which is backed by 35 years of research-proven outcomes for children and families.

Throughout each of its affiliates in the U.S. and abroad, Parents as Teachers strives to build healthy communities, thriving families, and children that are healthy, safe, and ready to learn. They match parents and caregivers with trained professionals, known as parent educators, who make regular personal home visits during a child’s earliest years in life, from pregnancy through kindergarten.

The first Parents as First Teachers parent educator started initially with a family who had previously had several children removed from their care. The unborn baby was subject to a Child Protection Plan with the local authority. The family engaged well with their parent educator and the child grew to thrive, while meeting developmental milestones and was reunited with the parents. The family is still participating in the Parents as First Teachers program, as it celebrates 30 years of strengthening families in the UK.

The name (from Parents as Teachers to Parents as First Teachers) is not the only aspect that has evolved over the 30 years since the program’s inception. Major revisions of the curriculum have been carried out over the years, successively introducing neuroscience knowledge, human diversity resources, positive parenting behavior, protective factors, and family well-being into a curriculum that began primarily with a child development focus.

Implementation in the UK has also driven adaptations to ensure alignment with National Health Service (NHS) provisions. NHS is the publicly funded healthcare system in England, and one of the four National Health Service systems in the United Kingdom. The resources available to practitioners now stand at more than 1,800 online, downloadable pages.

Information for this article was provided by Janice Saunders, the UK’s director, and national trainer of the Parents as First Teachers affiliate.