POTHOLES - parental engagement initiative in Ireland
The POTHOLES initiative is an excellent example of schools in Ireland reaching out to marginalised families beyond the traditional, formal methods of participation. The POTHOLES initiative was formed in January 2011 with the aim of helping parents of different background and cultures to meet with other parents from their own school and similar schools and share experiences. A key aim is to engage parents who perhaps may feel isolated or unfamiliar with the school system, involve them more closely in the school activities and decisions, and to introduce them to a range of learning opportunities.
This is a group brought together in January 2011 by the Home School Community Liaison Scheme (HSCL) coordinators of the 3 secondary schools in West Tallaght: Killinarden Community School, Mount Seskin Community College and St. Aidan’s Community School.
The group runs tours for parents every 4-6 weeks to areas of historical, social or political interest. The tours are fully paid for by the HSCL budget. Each school usually brings 8-10 parents. Tours are generally half day tours to enable parents to return in time to collect younger children from school. Destinations need to be within an hour's travel time from Tallaght. At the end of the year a more elaborate day-long tour is organised. Light lunch is usually provided at the end of the trip. There is a guided element to each trip and parents are given some background information or historical input and reading material to take home.
POTHOLES was awarded the South Dublin County Social Inclusion Award in 2012. To date 17 tours have taken place, mostly to museums or other cultural and natural sites.
Aims and outcomes of the Group
- To provide an enjoyable and well deserved day out for busy parents
- To help parents of different backgrounds and cultures meet with other parents from their own and similar schools and share experiences
- All parents seek to invite others, especially any parent feeling isolated, down or alone, on the next tour and inform them of the benefits of being in the group
- To provide a fun and relaxed learning environment for adults
- To introduce parents to other opportunities and initiatives the schools may provide
- Parents may in turn bring their own children to the places they have visited with the POTHOLES and also accompany and support teachers in leading educational trips with students
- To form a core group of Tallaght Secondary School Parents to organise other Parents’ activities
- Parents will be enabled, if they choose, to access or complete formal education
- POTHOLES will enable schools to have a group of parents to consult, help form committees or seek advice
- POTHOLES will increase parents' confidence when contacting/dealing with school and bring about more positive outcomes in relation to their children's schooling.
This group has been an overwhelming success. Parents love the days out and each one of the aims has become a tangible outcome for many parents. Parents are animated and involved with every aspect of the group and few if any ever miss an outing. Members clearly say that they are learning in an enjoyable and easy way. They are networking and sharing information with each other in relation to supports, services and social opportunities in the community. Some parents have even said that the group has turned their life around. Lots of the parents now meet weekly in the school and have a cup of tea and a chat.
Parents now direct and organise the group. They have, in addition to this, started to meet weekly to put together a project of pictures and words summing up the story, workings and benefits of the group to its members. Many parents have stated as a part of this that they have written for the first time in years and have spoken openly to other parents about their lives for the first time. The group has also been a platform for many parents to access or become involved with other courses, activities, committees, services or opportunities within the school or communities they belong to.
The schools are currently spending about €900 euro per year between them in order to run these trips. This model could work in any area, it is simple and of great benefit to individuals, to families, the community and to schools.
- School website