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The first in our series of registrant profiles, registered school teacher and acting headteacher of Thornhill Primary School Liz Berry talks about the school's successful family initiatives as a way to improve learning and explains what registration means to her.

Engaging families in learning

At Thornhill Primary School we believe in the power of families and the community. Over the past few years we have worked hard to further develop the range of opportunities for engaging with families.

It goes without saying that we have the usual opportunities for parents to be part of the school community with assemblies, PTA events, sports days and concerts at the heart of our school calendar but it is the little extras which we believe have had a positive impact on our relationships with families and impact positively on learning and teaching.

We have a number of parents who regularly help out with educational visits, the PTA, coffee mornings and classroom volunteering but the same faces are engaged and focused on having a positive impact for our school. Essentially these families are already engaged. We need to reach out to the families who are new to getting involved with school events and supporting learning.

Staff work tirelessly to engage families in learning. We have regular opportunities for families to join in with learning whether that be through the Welsh Assembly initiative, ‘Pori Drwy Stori’ where children share their learning with families or through our information sessions, reading café, internet safety evenings, School's Out, Dad's About Club, inter-generational Goldies Cymru ‘Time after time’ project, food cooperative or parent council. While levels of engagement are generally good in the Foundation Phase, our challenge is to engage parents in all our events.

In 2016 we started to work with Spice Time credits. Spice Time credits are a fantastic way for our school to engage our hard to reach parents but also to say thank you to them for giving up their time to be part of our school community.

We are still in the early stages of using time credits. Staff, children and parents have been involved in developing ideas of how we can use them to make the most of a ‘social currency’. Activities with each group have focused on engagement and interaction so that everyone has a clear understanding of the role of the credits and how they can be used to support community growth. Becky Hill, a parent at Thornhill Primary said, ‘ I think that Time Credits are a great opportunity for families of all generations to get involved with their community and great a great reward! There is so much to do with time credits!’ The children were so excited to find out about how they could use them! One child said, ‘Does that mean we can use them to buy more playtime or a non-uniform day?’

Ask any teacher and I am sure that they would understand and believe in the power of developing opportunities for children families to raise aspirations. The time credits open the ‘doors of opportunity’ for children to experience the arts and sport without a financial commitment on the part of families. For families who are entitled to free school meals this is very important. Ex pupils have also been signing up to help out in school with after school clubs and PTA events as they see this as an effective way to build their own credits.

For the community of Thornhill Primary, Spice Time Credits feels like a win-win for everyone!

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