In our training session we’ve met a lot of parents who are new to Scotland. One of these parents is Munir- he arrived from Syria last year and his children are at school in Glasgow. We met with him to find out a bit more about his experiences.
He was really positive about the schools his children go to- the family have been kept informed of how their children are doing and the progress they are making. It has been hardest for his eldest child, learning English was more difficult for him and he started in school in fifth year. Taking exams in a language you are struggling to learn is really difficult and Munir and his wife weren’t sure how best to support him.
Munir said that he attended an information event on the Curriculum for Excellence but found it hard to understand- it was in quite complicated language and he wasn’t very confident in his English. He suggested that parents who are new to Scotland need help understanding the Scottish education system- maybe an information evening in simple language so that parents can ask questions (and some help with translation).
We know that in Stirling the English as an Additional language team arrange an information night for the parents of their students every September, to make sure that they know how things work in Scotland from school uniforms to National exams. They even have high school students acting as translators for chocolates and flowers. This makes sure that parents get the right information and children get valuable voluntary experience to add to their CV.
In all our sessions with ethnic minority parents the topic of homework comes up. Parents can find it difficult to know how to help their children, particularly if English is not their first language. The Scottish education system is also very different from what parents from other countries have experienced, with less of an emphasis on tests.
We know that it’s important for parents to be partners with the school in their children’s learning and that helping with homework can make a big difference to children’s performance and confidence.
St Albert’s primary school in Glasgow, together with Shagufta Ahmed from the English as an Additional Language department have started a “family learning group” for parents whose first language isn’t English. This lets the parents understand what their children are being taught, learning games and stories that they can do together with their children to support what them with their homework. The group is also a chance for parents to come together to share experiences and support each other. It’s helped parents feel a part of the school and made a big difference in their communication with the teachers and understanding what’s going on in their child’s class.
One of the issues a lot of the parents talked about was their first language. The learning group has story books in English and other languages (including Chinese and Urdu) and gives parents the confidence to recognise that it’s okay for them to speak to their children in their first language. Before the group some parents had been worried that if they spoke to their children in another language it would make things harder for them in school. St Albert’s is try to challenge this and celebrate the different languages within the school- there are signs in different languages all over the “learning group” classroom.
For St Albert’s this is just the beginning and they hope that the parents can help with supporting children with reading in schools and engage with more parents whose first language isn’t English.
It was great to meet the group- particularly the children who really confident and proud of what they’ve done in the group.
We need passionate and dedicated parents from diverse backgrounds who are actively involved in their community to volunteer with Gathered Together.
Champions will gather evidence of parent’s experiences, share stories of parental involvement and be our link to the grassroots communities through the work they are already a part of and be able to engage with other local community groups and schools. They will gain skills to further their personal and professional development but most importantly have the opportunity to make a genuine difference.
Through the support being offered the volunteer will empower ethnic minority parents to be more confident to get involved in their child’s education and school community.
Gathered Together are running training sessions for individuals interested in becoming Community Champions. Our first session has been booked for:
If you are interested in coming along, or if you have questions about the role or training in other areas then please contact Richard, our Training and Development Officer at Gathered Together who will be more than happy to speak to you on 0131 474 6154 or email him.