Families and Schools Together (FAST)


Families and Schools Together (FAST) was developed in 1988 by Dr Lynn McDonald, Professor of Social Work Research at Middlesex University, and has received numerous awards and been recognised as a leading evidence-based parenting programme in several national and international projects.

These include:

2008 National Academy for Parenting Programmes (NAPP, UK)
2009 National Registry of Effective Programmes (and Practice (NREPP, US) 
2009 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA, US) 
2010 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)

FAST programmes have a strong research foundation and aim to achieve positive outcomes for children and families through evidence-based practice. The key outcomes expected for FAST schools is to:

  • Improve children’s behaviour, emotional well-being and academic performance
  • Strengthen families and increase parent empowerment
  • Improve education and increase parental engagement with the school
  • Build social capital.

For more information on FAST in the UK, visit their website.

  • About FAST

    • What is the FAST programme?

      FAST is a multi-family group approach designed to build protective factors for children to increase their resilience and wellbeing. Weekly groups held after school are open to all families and participation is strictly voluntary. This community strengthening programme is based on the social ecological theory of child development, family systems theory, family stress theory, attachment theory, social learning theory and theories of adult education.

      Groups are led by a trained, multi-agency team of professionals from health, education and social care, with parents from the local school as partners. The team must be culturally representative of the families being served in the groups.

      FAST is a parent involvement programme for all children in a grade level at a school. The holistic, multi-systemic, relationship-building approach works to prevent bad outcomes for children. A local authority which invests in FAST should have reduced rates of school truancy and school failure, alcohol and drug abuse, youth delinquency and antisocial behaviour, child abuse and neglect, mental health problems, violence and aggression. The focus is on building social capital, social inclusion and promoting the strengths of a school, a local community and all the children and families who live there.

    • Who is it for?

      Primary FAST can be run with children between the ages of 3-8 years old and Secondary FAST is run with 1st year students supported by 4th year students as part of the FAST team.

    • When does it run?

      The FAST programme runs after school for 8 weeks. The weekly sessions are 2.5 hours long, where a series of structured family activities take place. These include communication, listening, turn taking, community building, meal sharing, and relationship building.

      These are key techniques to help build stronger families.
    • How does it work?

      A fully-trained FAST team coaches and supports parents through each activity. The FAST programme promotes parent empowerment, so all communication is directed through the parents.

      The FAST team uses a technique called table-based coaching to pass all instructions for children and other family members through the parent. FAST activities consistently promote the development of relationships: parent to child, parent to parent, parent to school and parent to community.
    • Who is on the team?

      A complete FAST team is trained together but then split into ‘hub teams’. A hub is a group of 8-10 whole families. Each hub team must have:

      • 1 school partner: paid employee of the school, ideally support staff not teaching staff 
      • 2-3 parent partners: parents who have children in the school but not in the class or year for the programme group. These partners are critical to the sustainability of the programme so schools should train as many parents as possible. 
      • 1-2 community partners: ideally health, social work, sport and recreation but anyone who lives or works in the community. 

      How many team members you need depends on how many hubs you intend to run. Our average hub numbers is 2-3 (20-30 families), but our largest number of hubs has been 6 with 59 families graduating.

    • After FAST

      Families graduate from the programme at the end of eight weeks and then participate in monthly follow-up meetings called FASTWORKS.

      These ongoing meeting sustain the relationships between parents and children as well as the relationships formed between families. With team support, parents design the FASTWORKS agenda to maintain FAST family networks and identify community development goals.


FAST welcomes new organisations or communities who would like to engage with FAST. For further information please contact Head of FAST UK, Bernadette Thomas.

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