Arming parents with information
AS PART of its tenth anniversary celebrations this year, the National Parents Council - Primary recently opened a new Parents' Resource Centre.
"User friendly and accurate information is of central importance to parents, both in the education of their own children at home, at school and for use in educational discussion at national level," says the NPC.
Obviously, at times, it can be very difficult for parents to access such information. However, assisted by an increased grant from the Department of Education the aim of the resource centre is to make life that bit easier by ensuring parents find answers to their questions.
According to Aoife Geraghty, library and information officer at the centre, "the resource centre offers information on everything and anything to do with children, particularly in relation to primary school education.
"There was an obvious need for an information centre like this for a long time. The information was there all right, but in files and folders scattered in homes all around the country. Now we have a facility to bring all that information together and develop the resource centre in accordance with parents needs," she says.
Information available to date ranges from broad areas of education - such as understanding the education system, parents' role on boards of management, setting up parent associations and education legislation - to particular primary school issues like the Stay Sale Programme and questions parents might have regarding a particular child on how to prepare him or her for school, or how best to help him or her with homework.
Before coming to work at the NPC, Geraghty worked as a librarian with Bord Iascaigh Mhara but with the arrival of her first child six months ago, her interests changed significantly. "I had always had some community involvement but now as a parent, my interest has shifted to the community of parents as a whole," she says.
As yet the resource centre is only open in the mornings, from 10.00 a.m. to 12.00 p.m. Monday to Friday. "Obviously not all parents will be able to travel in to town to use the centre, so we expect to see parent representatives and people teaching on parenting courses coming in quite a bit," says Geraghty.
"We will also be working through the schools to make information readily available to parents - going out to talk to schools and offering, advice on how to set up a parents library.
"We'll send out information to anyone who phones in and we'll issue any leaflets we publish to libraries around the country, health centres and doctors surgeries. Basically we want to do our best to ensure that parents have access to any information they need."
As the resource centre is still developing, the priority at the moment is to find out exactly what sort of information parents are looking for.
"We will be sending out a questionaire to all the primary schools later this autumn and we would encourage parents to contact us by post or telephone to let us know what kinds of areas they are interested in. At the moment the centre is in its infancy, but as we develop we will have facilities such as toys for younger children to play with while parents browse.
"We have articles, magazines, books, leaflets, videos of conferences and so on, radio programmes on cassette, CD Roms and access to information on the internet.
Parents can come and use the computer here to do a subject search, or we'll do it for them. We are also setting up our own home page which will alert parents to what might be new at the centre and provide information on particular issues like bullying. And if there is anything a parent needs, that we don't have, we will get it."