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.