In our research into the experiences of ethnic minority parents and their children’s education, we found that parents are often feel very uninformed about how the education system in Scotland works- particularly at a secondary school level (the full report can be read here). In a questionnaire of 164 EM parents only 7% of respondents felt that they understood the secondary school system very well and 49% were not sure what exams their children would sit. While in secondary school children are less likely to need their parents help with homework, it is still vital that parents are involved and are able to support their children with their education- particularly in making subject choices and understanding their career options. When asked what information about school they would like, several parents highlighted the need to get more information about secondary and the options open to their children
I would like to know more about the exam system, which are the important years, when the big decisions are made (Mother, Greece) I would like to be provided with information exploring choices of subject at secondary school level, the options they have, university entry requirements etc (Mother, Poland)
St Mungo’s Academy in the east end of Glasgow has seen a recent increase in the number of children who need EAL support (English as an Additional Language), many of the children are arriving in Scotland aged 14 or 15 and will only have a short time in school before moving on to the world of work or further education. St Mungo’s EAL teacher, Abdul Latif Fathi, wanted to make sure that these new Scots were able to get the best start in life and felt there was a need to empower parents to be able to support their children. As Latif said
The children (at secondary), they don’t have time. they have to work hard and then next step is life, reality, work university
With the support of EAL area leaders Shagufta Ahmed and Rosaline Martin, they started a group for parents in the senior phase of school (from S4-S6) to help the parents get a better understanding of the education system and what they could do to support their children. The group gave parents the chance to find out more about the education system as well as meet other school staff including careers guidance and the attendance officer. These staff found meeting the parent group really helpful as well, making them more aware of the lack of information some parents have and challenging them to think how they can better engage with these families. It also gave the young people the chance to use their language skills with some young people helping with interpreting, as well as welcoming the parents to the group, providing teas and coffees and generally being incredibly helpful. This gave the young people leadership experience to put on their CVs and applications for college and university and the school formally recognised the help they had given them in the form of awards.
Gathered Together were able to attend one of the meetings and speak to some of the parents, young people and teachers involved in the group. You can hear Latif and Shagufta sharing their experiences of running the group here and some of the parents and students talking about the impact being involved had on them here
We are always looking for good practice, and Maria one of the members of Golfhill Primary Parent Council in Glasgow told us what they did for parents with children starting Primary school. We think it’s a lovely idea and couldn’t wait till August to share it with you!
The first day at school is always difficult. We know that a lot of parents have a little tear in their eye as their child goes off for the first day at big school. Golfhill Parent Council understand this and wanted to do something to make that first day easier as well as welcoming the parents into the school family. They created “welcome packs” for each of the parents with a child starting school, all created with love and care. The packs included:
The pack also included some practical information about the Parent Council and a volunteer sign-up sheet so that parents knew they could get involved in the school. The pack caused a few tears but also showed parents that they were welcomed by both the school and the Parent Council.
Parents who are new to Scotland are unlikely to know what a Parent Council is and we believe that it is vital parents get this information as soon as their child starts school. Getting involved in the transition to school and making themselves known to all the parents on the first day of school helps Parent Councils build relations with new parents and ensures that they can be a voice for all the parents in the school.
Keeping Children Safe, Healthy and Happy
Since July last year, the Gathered Together team at BEMIS has been engaging with community organisations to find out about their experiences of supporting EM parents on education matters. Through our engagement we found that community practitioners were involved in a wide range of activities to support parents including; supporting parents with school and nursery registration (including accompanying them to the school/nursery), running homework clubs or making referrals, providing information on rights and entitlements, including to clothing grants and school meals, providing ESOL classes/signposting to ESOL classes, helping parents make decisions about what is in the child’s best interest and organising sports activities for young people.
A common issue highlighted by all the community practitioners we engaged with was the lack of awareness by EM parents about the legislative framework around children in Scotland. As a result of this, some parents have found themselves on the wrong side of the law and accounts of children being taken into care for being disciplined by their parents were given. We are also aware that most community organisations are volunteering organisations and due to the wide range of services they provide, they may not have the capacity to keep up with the dynamic policy environment.
Reflecting on these issues and the need for children and young people in Scotland to grow up feeling Safe, Healthy and Happy, BEMIS is offering a unique opportunity for community practitioners that support EM families to attend a workshop. The workshop will consider the implications of the new Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014, due to be implemented in August this year.
The workshop will provide an important opportunity for community practitioners and parents to explore the changes to the legislative framework around children in Scotland with a particular focus on understanding the “Getting It Right For Every Child” approach (GIRFEC). It will provide a platform for community practitioners and parents to share their experiences and enable community practitioners to provide a better informed service for families.
By the end of the workshop, participants should be able to:
When and where
The workshop will take place on 9 March 2016 in the Woodlands Room at the Albany Learning Centre, 44 Ashley Street, Woodlands, Glasgow, G3 6DS. The workshop will run from 10 am- 1 pm.
To book a place or find out more email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 0141 548 8047
It will be delivered by GCVS Everyone’s Children Project in partnership with BEMIS Scotland and funded by the Scottish Government.
On 1 February Gathered Together delivered our last “Equalities and Engagement” training at Hillpark Secondary, Glasgow. Hearing about the experiences of schools and parents is always one of the best parts of our work and in the recent training we’ve come across some fantastic examples of Parent Councils being creative and finding new ways to reach out to the families in their schools. We just wanted to share some of the brilliant ideas that have come out of our last few training sessions
Meeting new parents Not every parent knows what a Parent Council is or does, particularly those parents who come from another culture. To address this and get their faces known right from the start, Parent Councils are getting involved in the transition time- meeting new parents when they come to visit their child’s new school. This gives parents the chance to learn what a Parent Council does and how they can get their voice heard in the school, it’s also a really useful chance for parents to ask PC members the important questions that only other parents can answer like- where is best to buy school uniform?
Focus groups Parent Councils look at a lot of different issues- including supporting the school, fundraising, communicating with parents and developing policies. It can be hard for a parent to join these meetings when there is so much being discussed. In response to this one Parent Council decided to create smaller sub groups looking at a particular issue and feeding back to the main Parent Council. These groups look at things like improving the playground, planning for events, discussing policies around homework or bullying. By having meetings that are just looking at one thing, parents who are interested can get involved and have their voice heard without having to commit to joining the Parent Council.
Books in other languages When families come to Scotland, it’s really important that their children are supported to keep their home language (supporting the first language can make learning another language easier and means that children can still speak to their family back home). However it can be a struggle to find books in the home language. In response to this some Parent Councils are trying to create a multi-lingual school library- asking parents to donate books in their home language and, in the case of one school, getting parents from EAL (English as an Additional Language) families to vote for their favourite books and the PC bought the most popular books.
Keeping language “parent friendly” Schools send out huge amounts of information to parents. With the new Curriculum for Excellence a lot of information about the new system and how children will be taught and assessed has been sent out to parents, but this information can be hard to read with lots of confusing words, abbreviations and acronyms. One Parent Council raised this with the head teacher and the school started working with the Parent Council to make the information they sent out easier to read and avoiding education “jargon”.