The Spark and relationship education

The WAVE Trust recently launched a new Toolkit for Future Parenting, with funding from the Scottish Government. With research continually strengthening the case for early years and youth relationship education programmes in Scotland, it represents a valuable addition.

A valuable resource for future parenting

Building on the Early Years Framework and the National Parenting Strategy, the toolkit recognises that relationships are key to children and young people's lifelong outcomes.

The Parenthood and Relationships Education Project (PREP) offers non-judgemental, supportive and practical information about parenthood and relationships for young people.  It is designed to lay the foundation for 'transformational change in the preparation for positive parenthood' and 'to make the next generation of parents, the best generation of parents'. While these are fantastic aspirations for relationship education in Scotland, they place great expectations on an already stretched resource: Scotland's teachers.

Do teachers need support to implement the toolkit for future parenting?

The Spark's work in schools means we encounter school staff daily. They are passionate about getting the best for their pupils. Sadly, in spite of this they acknowledge that the time and skills required to implement additional programmes alongside the Curriculum for Excellence are extremely limited.

Programmes that cover emotional wellbeing and personal development often place an emotional burden on teachers: they may feel ill-equipped to deal with some of the issues raised by pupils and this can impact on them personally. This can leave teachers feeling distressed as they don't have sufficient time or specialised skills to support their pupils in the manner they would wish.

The importance of skilled facilitators

The Toolkit highlights 'the importance of having facilitators who have the skills to help children process strong feelings and who should be able to demonstrate an example of what a good relationship looks and feels like and having personal experience of being a parent is helpful'.

Third sector organisations within the relationship counselling and youth people's relationship education sectors may be ideally placed to fulfill the role of facilitators. As the report indicates, they will be a crucial element of successful delivery of the toolkit in schools.

Activities such as The Spark's Relationship First Aid Programme could help key delivery staff to develop additional expertise and skills to support the delivery of the Toolkit.  It would increase their confidence to open up and close down difficult topics in a safe way and know where to access additional support for their pupils. In schools where teaching staff are already stretched, experienced relationship facilitators who have the specialist skills to help children process strong feelings, would be able to deliver the programme.

The future

It is important that this toolkit is used and in doing so, build a foundation for further programmes to support young people.  The Toolkit acknowledges that:

  • many of the young people undertaking this programme will have additional challenges and may not have had the optimum circumstances within their own families
  • the programme may highlight the need for further support through counselling for children who may have experienced family conflict, loss, relationship difficulties and breakdown within families and those young people with multiple challenges including being looked after.