One of the brilliant things that’s come out of Gathered Together’s work has been the opportunity to build relations with groups. In Falkirk we ran training for community champions (http://gatheredtogether.bemis.org.uk/?p=330) which Megan Farr from Falkirk Council was also able to attend. This helps to build links between the council and one of the groups our community champion Sofia was running. From that meeting they are now working together to start going out to school to visit primary school classes to speak about Islam.
We have also been able to help some of the community groups we are working with to get the support to develop as organisations as well as apply for the Multi-Cultural Homecoming fund http://bemis.org.uk/project/multicultural-homecoming-2014/. It is great to be able to help groups like the International Women’s group and Rainbow Muslim Women’s group to do more and build relations.
In our videos we’ve also been able to showcase and celebrate good practice- there are so many schools and Parent Councils who do a wonderful job and have developed a real ethos of working with families. We’ve tried to make sure we promote good practice as widely as possible so that they get the recognition they deserve.
And finally through our steering group we’ve been able to open up opportunities to work with Skills Development Scotland to promote their website for parents http://www.myworldofwork.co.uk/section/parents-and-carers to parents from ethnic minorities, help communication between local authorities on how to engage parents and start conversations on how the diverse members of the group can work together.
We’ve got lots of partnership work planned for the new year, including with Education Scotland and Bilingualism Matters- these are exciting times!
Gathered Together has been running for seventeen months now and we thought the end of the year would be a good time to look back at what we’ve done over the year. Here are a few figures-
35 workshops for ethnic minority parents, reaching 358 parents
22 training sessions for Parent Councils reaching 257 parent council members and head teachers
10 videos on our website with parents, head teachers and key stake holders sharing good practice (and more videos to follow in the New Year)
Our workshops with Ethnic Minority parents have been a wonderful opportunity to find out about the experiences of parents in relation to their children’s schools. It’s helped highlight good practice with some great stories of how schools engage with parents and help them feel a part of the school community as well as helping us to understand the barriers that parents can face. The biggest barrier for the majority of Ethnic Minority parents face is language and we’ve been able to do simple things like make parents aware of their right to get an interpreter for meetings with school as well as share ideas for how they can get involved despite the language barrier. We’ve also raised awareness about parents’ rights to get involved and have their voice heard within the school. So many of the parents at our sessions hadn’t heard of the Parent Council or had only the vaguest idea of what they do and we’ve been able to raise awareness of the work Parent Councils can do and the impact they can have on the ethos of the school.
We’ve been able to take the barriers and experiences we’ve heard from our EM sessions to pass on to local authorities and feed into our training for parent councils. The training is meant to give parent councils the chance to think about the experience of parents who experience barriers and challenge them to come with practical solutions to help overcome these barriers. This is often a rare opportunity for parent councils to come together, share ideas and talk about their experiences. The time and space to think about participation and what they can do to help parents become more involve is incredibly valuable and some brilliant ideas have come out of these discussions. The training is also an opportunity for us to share the good practice we’ve come across including community assemblies, newsletters as podcasts, meeting new parents when their children is transitioning and international days. The parents who came along to the training have feedback that it’s made them aware of the diversity within the school. One mother said that she just found out one of her daughter’s best friends was Polish and that the school has a sizeable Eastern European population she hadn’t been aware of.
One of the best parts of our work has been gathering the stories of the people who are supporting parental involvement. We have met some inspirational people including ethnic minority parents who are taking an active role in their children’s schools, teachers who passionately believe in working in partnership and parents sharing the challenges they’ve experienced in getting involved in their children’s education. Being able to record the interviews has been fantastic so that people can hear about these experiences in their own words. If you haven’t already go have a look- http://gatheredtogether.bemis.org.uk/?p=538 and let us know what your favourite videos are.
In April 2014 we had an article in Children in Scotland, giving a little history of the project and some of the things we’ve learnt from working with Ethnic minority parents and the work we’ve been doing to support EM parents and parent councils.
Early in 2014 Holyrood magazine ran an article on the Gathered Together project, including an interview with BEMIS’ chief executive Rami Ousta. To read the full article just click on this link Holyrood Magazine
An article about Gathered Together has just been published in the AHDS magazine- for those of you who don’t subscribe you can see the full article by clicking here: AHDS Parental Participation