Supporting Parents to Support their Children

Image of the person who wrote the blog.
Majella McHugh, Deele College, Raphoe parent.

Last October fifteen pioneering parents in the Letterkenny and Finn Valley areas graduated from the pilot programme ‘My Child My Vision’ programme, a parent facilitation training programme to empower parents to guide their child through the school transfer process and to support their child’s progression from primary to post-primary education. Having previously been rolled out in four other counties in Ireland, this was the first time it was delivered in County Donegal. The parents have children attending Errigal College in Letterkenny, Deele College in Raphoe, Finn Valley College in Stranorlar, Scoile Bhríde Primary School in Convoy and Scoil Mhuire Primary School in Stranorlar. In this blog, one of our Deele College parents, Majella McHugh, tells us about the programme and her experience of it.

My name is Majella McHugh, and I am a mother of three children, all of whom have transitioned to secondary school. As parents, we can often feel a little helpless – our role is to be supportive and encouraging. I’ve always played an active role in my children’s education throughout their primary school years, secondary school is a different field, so how do we do that now that they’ve transitioned?

The transition from primary to secondary school is one of the most significant changes in our children’s education. They may feel a sense of excitement about the prospect of going to a new school, as well as nervousness about what lies ahead. The biggest change for our children is following a class timetable, learning new subjects and the constant change in the day-to-day routine.  One important thing to remember is that our children are more resilient and adaptable than we give them credit for. But what about us as parents, how do we support this important milestone in our children’s life?

Parents are busy, juggling home and work, and at times it’s difficult to get the balance right. For me personally, I made the time to get involved in my children’s secondary education.

When my eldest child transitioned to secondary school, I did feel helpless. It was very comforting to know though that the school had an excellent support network in place to support my child. In addition, the information evenings held were very helpful.

In 2022, at a parent’s association meeting in Deele College, an opportunity was presented for me to join the ‘My Child My Vision’ pilot programme delivered by Donegal ETB’s Further Education and Training (FET) Service in collaboration with the Home School Community Liaison (HSCL) Coordinators from local primary and secondary schools. The objective of the programme is to provide the skills and tools to deliver the My Child My Vision (MCMV) programme to parents of children transitioning from primary to secondary school, so that they can guide their child through the school transfer process.

The programme was delivered over a 9–10 week period with a commitment of 2-3 hours a week.  At the first class, a lot of the parents were unknown to each other; for me, I didn’t know anyone on the day. However, this did not concern me or make me nervous in any way. The first session was about the parents meeting each other for the first time, getting to know each other and understanding what the programme entailed.

As the weeks passed, we had five new parents start, bringing the total up to seventeen. The group really started to develop, and friendships formed and by the end of the programme, everyone in the group was incredibly supportive of each other.

I am not going to write that this programme was simple – with learning journals to be completed, an assignment and a recorded thirty-minute presentation, it wasn’t easy, but I successfully graduated in October 2023!

I am grateful that I was given the opportunity to join the programme, meeting so many wonderful people. I had great support from my tutor Barry, not to mention the tremendous support I received from my HSCL Coordinator, Ms Patrice Gallagher from Deele College.

I would highly recommend any parent of a child transitioning to secondary school to avail of the programme when it is being delivered in the schools. Not alone will you get the opportunity to meet other parents, but this programme will “Empower you as a parent to guide your child through the school transfer and allow you to support your child’s progression in education.

You can read more about their graduation here.