What can Gathered Together do for Ethnic and Cultural Minority Parents?

The only Ethnic Minority parent in the school

i Dec 12th No Comments by

From our work in rural areas, including Falkirk and Stirling and Clackmannanshire we’ve heard the experiences of parents who were the only Ethnic Minority family in the school. Feeling the odd one out always makes involvement more difficult, particularly in schools where other parents have known each other since they were children. Parents spoke about the difficulty to speak to other parents when it seemed that everyone knew each other really well and they were not confident with their English.

Feeling different is also difficult for children, some mothers spoke about their children being embarrassed by their mother coming into school wearing a salwar kameez. They can also feel uncomfortable about the fact their parents have poor English and being asked to translate for them. In an interview we did recently with two mothers who are part of the Rainbow Muslim Women’s group, Samina spoke about the difficulties to getting involved. Feeling different and not understanding the school system- who to ask for, what her children were being taught etc, made her reluctant to have contact with the school. Other parents have found the very vocabulary of modern education confusing- their children talk about “learn-its” (short sums) and they have no idea what this means or how to support their children with homework. To hear more about Samina and Tasneem’s experience go to  http://gatheredtogether.bemis.org.uk/?p=878

Samina said that she has never been specifically asked by the school to get involved- just through general letters asking for help. We think that specifically approaching parents, recognising their skills and interests, can help parents feel a part of the school and help the school to celebrate its diversity. We know parents who have gone into school to teach the class how to count in their mother tongue- this makes their children feel proud of their parents and that their mother tongue is something to be valued not ashamed of. You can also find out about the bilingual story telling group at St Albert’s primary in Glasgow that has parents telling stories to children in English and Urdu- http://gatheredtogether.bemis.org.uk/?p=854

Overcoming the Language Barrier

i Nov 18th No Comments by

Language always come up in our training when talking about barriers to getting more involved. Not feeling able to talk to teachers or feeling nervous and worried about saying the wrong thing can make any contact with school stressful. In a recent session we did with deaf parents they highlighted that many parents would avoid them as they couldn’t use sign language. Missing out on the playground gossip that parents share can make these parents feel very isolated. We’ve recently heard a lot of stories of children being taken to school without Halloween costumes as parents weren’t aware that their children could dress up- this is really embarrassing for both parents and children and emphasises that they aren’t a part of the school community.

However more schools are starting to use texts to parents to remind them about important things (from in-service days to book fairs), much easier for parents to read than long letters and more likely to reach parents than school letters that can be left in school bags and forgotten. To help parents become more involved in the school it’s useful to have activities that everyone can get involved in. Oakgrove primary school in Glasgow recently needed help putting sand in their new sandpits and sent a text out to all parents asking for help. This was a simple activity that almost any parent could get involved in (Oakgrove is a very diverse school with over thirty languages spoken) and was just asking parents to help for a couple of hours on a Saturday morning. Almost sixty parents along with their families came along to help- creating a real sense of the school community as well as getting the sandpits ready in no time. Could your school use parents in this way?

Parental Involvement- making your children proud

i Oct 10th No Comments by

em session oct

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.

Scottish Learning Festival Round Up

i Oct 2nd No Comments by



‘Parents Connect’

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…)

Gathered Together at the Scottish Learning Festival #ParentsasPartners

i Sep 22nd No Comments by

We are really excited for this years Scottish Learning Festival in Glasgow’s SECC on Wednesday and Thursday.

Gathered Together will be delivering a seminar on Thursday 25th at 12pm, and we will be looking at the impact of parents being involved in their children’s education and the benefits of getting parents from different cultures to the school and the children. 100 people (!) have signed up for our seminar so unfortunately there are no spaces left but we’ll make sure we put information from the seminar up on our website.

We are looking to hear from teachers about their experience with parental involvement. We want to know what are the barriers you’ve faced, who are the parents that have inspired and supported you, and why you think parental involvement matters. Use #parentsaspartners to get your voice heard and you may be featured in Thursday’s seminar!