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Project inspires mums to study

Mothers of pupils in five Oxfordshire schools have been inspired to carry on learning after taking part in a "parents in the classroom" scheme. Nearly 50 classroom helpers took part in the project, which was run by the county council and Oxford University's centre for parent-teacher partnerships.

The idea was to develop parents' skills in helping children to learn; improve their understanding of the national curriculum in maths, English and science; and increase their confidence as educators and in themselves as learners.

Helen Barker, the project co-ordinator, said: "We were very aware while designing the programme of the dangers of a 'Mum's Army' being seen to be recruited to do tasks that teachers should be doing." She made it clear from the start that the point was to develop a stronger partnership between parents and school with parents as an added resource.

The course ran for three periods of six weeks over three terms, with separate modules focusing on the three subjects. Parents also continued to help in class. They attended a tutor group session each week, then put theory into practice in class and did some private study at home. Each module carried a credit from the Open College Network.

So far, the scheme has attracted women in their early-20s to late-40s. Ms Barker said she hoped to widen the intake next year, funds permitting, to include parents who are not classroom helpers - which might encourage fathers to join in.

All the parents got credits and most wanted to move on to other adult education courses. Three have become learning support assistants; in one school, the whole group and their tutor are joining a science course run by the Workers' Educational Association. Science was the most popular module.

Locations varied from villages to inner-city Oxford. "The outcome was just as good, if not better in the poorer areas,"said Ms Barker.

Parents in the classroom, evaluation report of the first year by Helen Barker, Centre for Parent-Teacher Partnerships, Oxford University Department of Educational Studies, 15 Norham Gardens, Oxford OX2 6PY, Pounds 6.50.

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