Ballysillan Team has been up and running in a temporary base for one and a half years. In this time we have encouraged 157 families onto the project.
We have set up a number of classes including, homework club for parents, aromatherapy, Women into Politics, Return to Study and Art and Craft.
We also hold a drop-in facility once a week in a local community centre, Concorde. We have taster sessions that to date have included 'Make it and Take it' art sessions, Healthy Eating Cooking demonstrations, Aromatherapy for parents and children and Dental Health.
We have recently introduced an exercise class which allows parents and children to exercise together.
The Ballysillan team have also set up a Meet-a-Mum Group in their area. Eighteen mothers now attend this group regularly and have organised a rota were members staff their own creche while the meeting is in progress. The team have worked hard to set up a homework club for local parents. The course which is subsidised by the project, lasts 10 weeks. The club is attended to date by 6 parents who study English and mathematics to enable them to help their children with their homework. Although the course has initially attracted a small number of parents this is an area of work the team hope to develop. A significant number of parents (48%) who have joined the project had left school without any formal qualifications. This makes it difficult for them to help their children with their school work which they were set to study at home. By enrolling on such courses when their children are young it is hoped they will benefit their children, particularly when they enter primary five which is when the Grammar School Selection Procedure syllabus begins. At that stage the amount of help a child receives at home can be vital to their performance in that examination. Those parents who develop a routine at helping their children with their homework at an early stage will be laying a good foundation for their children as they progress at school.
Earlier in the year this team arranged with the VSB playbus to visit an area close to the team once a fortnight. So far six parents from the project and their children are regularly using the services of this bus. Again this is a start that staff in the team will seek to build upon. The base this team occupies at present is only an office so they welcome the arrival of the playbus to provide space to promote the value of play and its role in children's education. A member of staff who is involved in the playbus met with the Child Development Officer and the previous Research Officer and gave plenty of praise for the enthusiasm of the Ballysillan staff in encouraging parents to use the bus.
Staff from the Ballysillan Team facilitated a number of activities with families over the summer holiday period. These included a day out in Bangor, a trip to the Botanic Gardens, a trip to the Abbeycentre Shopping Complex and Jungle Jims.
Also over the summer families were able to participate in a free session of aromatherapy provided by the Body Shop for both parents and children.
The staff are currently organising a programme of play between parents and their children in the Benview Community Centre.