AN OXFORD charity which helps improve relationships between parents and children is celebrating its 21st anniversary next month.

When Annette Mountford founded Family Links in February 1992 she was concerned that parenting was becoming more challenging.

The charity is based on the Horspath Industrial Estate and trains parenting support workers and teachers.

Now chief executive of the charity, Mrs Mountford says that attitudes to her work have changed over the years.

Mrs Mountford, 63, said: “Twenty-one years ago parents would almost come to sessions with bags on their head and it was seen as shameful.

“Now it is seen as a good thing. Parents are keen to come and participate in the sessions. There’s even a waiting list.”

Apart from working with parents, the charity train teachers in school to improve their empathy with children and to encourage collaboration and teamwork among the pupils.

Jill Hudson, headteacher of Pegasus School in Blackbird Leys, Oxford, said: “The programme is what makes our children flourish.

”It makes them able to cope with life and learning.

“When staff move on from us I often ask what they will take on from Pegasus. They always say ‘Family Links’, which is a real plaudit for the charity.”

When she formed the organisation Mrs Mountford, who has lived in Oxford for nearly 30 years, was a health visitor working in Rose Hill.

In her job she was limited to 30-minute visits to families every few weeks.

Having read about the nurturing programme, which was developed in the USA in the late 1970s, and realising she needed more time to influence change, she set up the charity, taking on the programme’s ethos.

Starting off working with 10 parents and 16 children, Family Links now reaches 30,000 parents around the country and more than 50,000 children annually.

Family Links started working in schools thanks to a teacher at Wood Farm Primary School in Oxford, who was impressed at how one parent’s behaviour towards her children had changed after sessions with the charity.

It is set to become a sponsor of the new multi-academy trust in Blackbird Leys.

All three of the estate’s primaries Orchard Meadow, Windale and Pegasus come under its umbrella.

The bulk of the charity’s income now comes through the sale of training courses and materials.

Outside funding helps develop new programmes.

Mrs Mountford, who has edited a book The Parenting Puzzle: How to Get the Best Out of Family Life, received an MBE in 2002 and now talks to MPs and think-tanks, helping to shape policy.

A special version of its training has been developed for Muslim families, drawing on extracts from the Quran.

For more information about the charity and its courses, visit