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City fathers, City mothers

Parenting classes in the City? Mums and Dads are seeking advice on kids, courses and caring. Siobhan Mulholland

Rachel Vecht, a former primary school teacher, is readying a meeting room of a City bank for her class. Over the next 10 minutes, around 20 people in their 30s and 40s wander in, smiling shyly, before sitting in one of the chairs that have been arranged to form a semicircle.

The group – an equal mix of men and women – stays silent for the best part of 40minutes, lapping up Vecht’s every word on subjects ranging from how to get the most out of reading with your children, helping with maths homework, and advice on choosing schools.

Then she stops and asks her audience if they have any questions. The hands shoot up. Vecht, a 34-year-old mother of three, started her education consultancy – Educating Matters – seven years ago after her first child was born. She realised schools were always very keen for pupils to practice their reading at home yet rarely told parents the best way to go about this, so she took it upon herself to give guidance. Vecht started out small and local, hosting sessions in parents’ homes. Since taking Educating Matters into the workplace, she has taken on a team of teachers to work with her in delivering seminars on a range of educational subjects. Much of what she offers is tailored to the anxieties of busy working parents who want to get the most out of the limited time they have with their children.

For example, the lunchtime sessions held in City banks and law firms have proved popular with employees keen to learn how to get the best out the bedtime hour – that very precious time between when working parents get home and when their young children go to sleep.

Sue Eve, a mother of two and senior HR manager at the City law firm Allen & Overy, finds the sessions reassuring. “[Vecht] makes me feel comfortable about being a working mother,”she explains. “She advocates short, sharp measures instead of spending hours with your child. So as long as you’re focused, and I think a lot of working mums are, you can achieve just as much.”

What Vecht also provides is that all-important school-gate chit-chat – the tips, hints and reassurance that “at-home” parents or those with more flexible work schedules share when they meet each other at pick-up and drop-off times: insights into different local schools, tips on teachers, even how their children are doing academically and socially.

According to Lorenzo Sanchez-Mangas, a vice-president at Goldman Sachs and father of four daughters, Vecht’s knowledge brings a healthy perspective to children’s development. “She tells us what is expected of children at certain ages, which is important because you go to dinner with friends and you listen to them talking about their family, and you think that their children are Einsteins.”…………