We delivered one of our last sessions in Fife (for the moment- we’re hoping to get more dates for further training soon) at Rimbleton Primary in Glenrothes. At the start we always ask parents what they are already doing to get parents involved and were utterly amazed with how much the schools and parent councils were already doing. As well as the school concerts, coffee mornings and fundraising events there were schools running bike courses for parents and children, craft evenings before Christmas (when families could come in and make Christmas cards together) and pre-school Fair Trade breakfasts for parents and children.
One of my favourite ideas to come out of the session was a survey for parents to find out about what they know about the Parent Council and how they could get involved. This is incredibly helpful for the Parent Council to find out how aware parents are about their work, skills that parents might have and particular people who could use their skills to help the school. The problem with most surveys is that parents don’t answer them- it’s very easy to put off more paperwork from the school or another survey monkey email. But some schools have learnt to use children- the children create the survey in class then ask their parents the questions as homework. This means that about 98% of the parents actually respond.
Please try this at your school and let us know how it goes- good luck!
In our sessions with parents from Ethnic Minorities we always ask what activities they are involved in at the school. Often the parents we speak to will only drop their children off at school and attend parents’ evening- they don’t have the time (or the confidence) to do more. We believe that schools need to be creative in thinking of ways that parents can get involved and feel a part of the school community and at our session with mothers at the West and Central Integration Network in Glasgow we were given a host of ideas.
A lot of the parents talked about going into school for end of term Mass, school plays, Christmas fairs and school assemblies. As well as giving parents a chance to see their children’s school, it is always important for children to have their parents come along. At school concerts you will see children looking into the audience to see their parents and that level of support can really help a child’s confidence. Some of the parents have taken a more active role- from making rice dishes for Fair Trade day to helping out on school trips. This helps parents feel part of the school community and children are proud of their parents (at least in primary school!). Our favourite idea was a parents’ netball team! We were very impressed with the parents who do this.
When we were talking about barriers one of the issues that came up a lot was distance- many of the families need to travel quite far to school and this can stop them getting involved in school activities, particularly meetings after school. We also learned that taxis are not able to take a child on their own- this means if one child is off sick then the other child will need to stay at home too as they are not able to get to school by themselves. The parents we met also said that they didn’t feel they could commit to groups like the Parent Council because they wouldn’t always be able to make it- being able to offer flexible ways to get involved could really help these parents.
Sadly racism was also mentioned as a barrier, the mother said that she didn’t feel that the head teacher listened to her concerns and in the end she moved her daughter to another school. We have found the best way of tackling racism is for the school to acknowledge and celebrate the different cultures that the pupils come from- showing all the pupils that difference is to be respected.
As part of our work to support ethnic and cultural minority parents to become more involved in their child’s education and the school community we will be holding sessions for parents in ABERDEEN at the end of October.
We have two sessions booked for Parents and one for Parent Councils, have a look below for details of the sessions.
The Gathered Together team were at the Scottish Learning Festival last week. It’s an amazing event bringing together a huge range of organisations involved in education and children’s learning – from Skills Development Scotland to Amnesty International. This year was the first time that parents had been officially invited to attend and the National Parent Forum Scotland (NPFS) and our partners Scottish Parent Teacher Council had a “Parent Connect” stall just for parents. It seemed to be constantly busy- and not just because of the tempting home baking available! There were sessions on how parents can support their children with literacy and numeracy and what Parent Councils do, visiting displays from organisations supporting families- including Gathered Together and vast amounts of information about parents’ rights, the Curriculum for Excellence and the role of Parent Councils. (more…)