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More schools should make use of parents' skills and experience


Kids dressed up

Kids dressed up

When creative people speak with children, it can fire their ambitions as to career choice

When creative people speak with children, it can fire their ambitions as to career choice

Kids dressed up

The masses were called upon, and the people answered in significant numbers. No - I'm not talking anti-water charges demonstrations - I'm talking about a primary school that asked for parental engagement for a new project and received an overwhelming response.

The new project was a simple one - an Arts Week for the school, much along the lines of established Maths Weeks and Science Weeks. The difference was that the children's parents were asked to participate if they wished.

Anyone working within a creative field, from an architect to an artist or writer, could offer some time to come in and talk to a class of children about their profession. It was such a simple idea, but the uptake was incredible. Over the course of the week children from Second Class to Sixth Class welcomed visitors from a host of varied careers.


Parents from the more traditional arts included painters, sculptors, writers and filmmakers took part, giving children insights into the creative jobs they do. As the definition of arts was left open to interpretation, the school was contacted by a wonderfully eclectic bunch of creative professionals volunteering their time.

The students were visited by many other parents including an architect, engineer, web designer, journalist, National Gallery archivist, newspaper editor and a cartographer. It was a wonderful opportunity for them to learn about jobs they mightn't have even dreamed existed.

I rocked up too, as a magazine editor, and had two fun sessions with classes of bright and engaged children. There was plenty of time for questions, and after each session the students undertook a project related to the job they had just learnt about.

Judging from the photos on the school's website, the kids had great fun attempting all kinds of creative work. My classes were given blank magazine covers to create, with a masthead printed with the school name - and a bar code for authenticity.

The parental participation was only one aspect of Arts Week's success, with children taking part in music, drama, dance, construction, storytelling, drawing, painting and sculpture.

Many of these activities might seem like hobbies to children, so it made sense to show them that their interests can go on to inform their career choices.

Anyone with a child knows how difficult it can be to get news out of them after school, so it was heartening to hear how many children went home during Arts Week and enthusiastically talked about the visitors they'd met and the new jobs they'd learned about.

I asked friends if their kids' schools ever engaged parents in a similar way. I learnt of one doing a similar thing during Science Week and another inviting in parents from different cultures to introduce the children to their countries and foods.

Education is so much more than the set curriculum, and it's great to see schools thinking outside the box and engaging with parents. After all, parents are free resources, and most of us can spare an hour of our lives to contribute.

The nicest feedback I got was a text from a parent telling me that her son wants to become a journalist after hearing me speak. I can't wait to go back next year and recruit more kids!