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“Our children’s future- learning in Glasgow”

i Jun 17th No Comments by

46bdfcbad606b7ab4f8e2d91942fa6404709c852Today we were invited to the  world premier of “Our children’s future- learning in Glasgow” at Annette Street School in Govanhill. The schools and nursery in Govanhill (Annette Street, St Brides, Cuthbertson, Holy Cross and Govanhill nursery) had been working together to make a short film for new parents, explaining, in their own words the important information about schools in Scotland. It was generously funded by Eurocities and the Scottish Traveller Education Programme, particularly to help the Roma population in the area. Govanhill has always been a diverse area with families from Ireland, Pakistan, Poland, Slovakia and Romania making their homes here. Parents who are new to Scotland are often unaware of the differences between here and their home country- the right to get a place in nursery for 3-4 year olds, the fact that primary school education starts when children are 5 and what children should bring for gym class.

All this information, and more, was covered in the film- but more importantly it was given by parents who have already gone through the system and were talking in their mother tongue. Hearing from another mother in your language what happens in school is far more reassuring and easy to understand- hearing it from the “horse’s mouth”. The film also had children from the schools talking about what happens in school- from showing off the “bug hotel” in the school play ground to demonstrating what to wear for gym class.

It was a real pleasure to attend, all the film stars looked so pleased and a real effort was made to make the event special- red carpet, bouquets of flowers for the mothers who appeared in the film and huge slices of cake served after the premier. Events like this help families feel a part of the school, giving a sense of belonging and the film has a far more lasting legacy- helping new families understand their children’ school.

You can see the film on the STEP website here

Parent participation rewards card

i Apr 24th No Comments by

reward card

There is something really satisfying about collecting stamps and getting something free in the end- reward cards keep me coming back to the same coffee shop. But how do they fit in with parental involvement?

At a recent meeting we heard about Govanhill Nursery, in the Southside of Glasgow, who have introduced their own rewards card. Parents will get a “stamp” on their card for each school event they attend, and if they have six stamps their child can go on the school trip for free. It was born out of the difficulties the nursery had to get parents to come along to school events and give them important information about their children’s learning, applying for a place in school etc. Govanhill nursery is in a diverse neighbourhood with many parents new to Scotland and unfamiliar with the education system- getting the right information to them is incredibly important but parents can be reluctant to come to school events due to lack of confidence, language barriers and other commitments.

The nursery used the rewards cards as a “hook”- a practical reward for parents making the time to come to school events. But the parents also found the events really positive as well- giving them the chance to see what their children are doing in nursery, how they can help and all the essential information about starting school in Scotland.

All they needed was a bit of card and a chance to collect the stamps.


The school is my family

i Apr 20th No Comments by


For most families moving to the UK, the first communities they come into contact with are their children’s schools. But becoming a part of the school community can be a challenge.

The Gathered Together project (run by BEMIS, a body supporting the development of Scotland’s ethnic minorities voluntary sector, and the Scottish Parent Teacher Council) works with parents from ethnic minorities to get them more involved with their schools and with their children’s learning.

Says Lorraine Dougan, head teacher at Golfhill primary in Glasgow, where over a third of the pupils don’t have English as a first language.: “Parents who speak little English are often less confident about coming into the school, which means that they tend not to come to parents’ nights, school events . . . and this means they are missing out on really important aspects of their child’s learning and being part of that wider school community.”

In Gathered Together’s conversations with parents, language, confidence and lack of information come up time and time again as barriers stopping them taking a more active role in their children’s school.

When you’re not confident in you language even the simplest contact with school can be stressful. We met one mum who spoke about how difficult it was for her to phone the school to say her child was sick.

The Scottish education system is also different from other cultures. Many countries have regular tests so that parents know where their child stands in relation to their classmates, and some parents find it disconcerting that this is not the practice in Scotland.

There’s a real need to engage with parents who are new to Scotland so that they understand how their children are being taught and how to support them- and reassure them that their children are learning. In an effort to engage with the parents who speak English as an additional language (EAL), Marilyn Gordon, Golfhill’s EAL teacher, started a “learning together club”. This group gives parents the chance to work with their children, see how they are being taught and learn ways of supporting their children’s learning.

Gordon says that when parents came to school and worked with her, “the confidence levels of the children just were obviously going up and up and up. The expression on their faces when they knew that their parent had come into school to work with them – they were absolutely delighted.

“It shows that the parents and teacher are working together and the children could see that the parents were part of the school life, that it was a place for families and not just for children.”

Getting parents involved in their children’s school has a massive impact on the whole family. One parent talked to us about the challenges posed by her children growing up in a culture different from her own and how getting involved in the school helped bridge that gap and gave her an understanding of the world her sons were living in.

Another mother at Wynford Nursery in Maryhill said that getting involved in a parents group run by the nursery helped her feel less isolated by giving her the chance to make friends with other parents, find out about local clubs and services – it gave her a sense of belonging.

Maria, a parent at Golfhill Primary, is originally from Bulgaria and is now firmly part of the school community, and is involved in the Families in Partnership Programme and the Parent Council. She’s incredibly positive about the importance of getting involved: “To be involved in the school here makes a big difference for my daughter because she sees me in school, she sees that I’m taking part in the Parent Council and she’s really proud.

“She says, ‘Oh, this is my mum, she’s doing this and that in school’. I know the teachers very well and I can have a chat with them anytime- so it’s like a small family- the school is my family”


Taken from an article on Gathered Together from Migrant Voice http://www.migrantvoice.org/voices/pagenews/the-gathered-together-project.html 

Scotland, People and Language Forum

i Feb 23rd No Comments by

On Friday 20 February Gathered Together, in partnership with Education Scotland and Bilingualism Matters held a networking event bringing together people who teach languages and those who support people who have English as an additional language. We were really pleased with the diversity of people who attended- from colleges that provide English language classes, teachers that support children with English as an additional language, language teachers and the community groups that work with people who do not have English as a first language (including the deaf community). The breadth of experience of the delegates helped to make the discussions enriching- giving the third sector and education the opportunity to share experiences and highlighting gaps.

One of the focuses for the event was the “1+2 language learning policy”, the Scottish government’s policy to ensure that children have the opportunity to learn two languages in addition to their mother tongue. While everyone in the room was positive about the aims of the policy there was a lot of concern about how it would be introduced- the training needed for teachers, would community languages like Polish or Urdu be represented and what could be done to support parents from EAL families to get involved in this process. We were lucky enough to have Louise Glen, Senior education officer for literacy and language at Education Scotland and Judith McKerrecher from the SCILT Scotland’s National Centre for Languages to introduce the policy and address some of those questions.

We were also treated to an energetic mini lesson in Spanish from Martha Robinson from SOFT to show us how children in primary school can be introduced to a new language. I loved it and still remember the names and actions for the characters in the story- Martha spoke passionately about how positive the children were about learning a new language, but also about the challenges she faced in getting the teachers and parents involved. Teaching a new language takes confidence and some teachers preferred to take a step back and let Martha get on with the activities rather than joining in.  Martha’s research also chimed with Gathered Together experience when talking to Educators and EM Parents about the gaps and misunderstandings in communication on both sides.

Over the course of the morning we had wide ranging discussions- sharing good practice and the challenges faced- we’ll be attempting to summarise these in a report. We are hoping to follow up the event with a seminar at the Scottish Learning Festival and to use our contacts to add to the ever growing bank of good practice for engaging with parents that we’re developing. Keep your eyes on the website for more information!

Cuts to a service that supports new Scots

i Feb 11th No Comments by

Recently I attended a roundtable discussion at the Scottish Parliament on “Getting it right for the immigrant child” hosted by the Scottish Child Law Centre. There were some wonderful speakers including Amal Azzudin one of the “Glasgow Girls”. Amal and her family came to Glasgow from Somalia and she and her friends lead a campaign against the deportation against the deportation of refused asylum seekers. The Glasgow Girls were central in ending the detention of children in Scotland (previously whole families would be held in detention centres before being sent back to their home) and ending the dawn raids on asylum seekers. For more about the Glasgow Girls go to https://vimeo.com/47646327

Amal spoke passionately about the difference that her bilingual support (now called English as an Additional Language) teacher -Mr Girvan. It was Mr Girvan who supported the newly arrived asylum seeker children, helping them to develop their English and adjust to their new homes. Across Scotland we have met some fantastic EAL teachers- they are often the first point of contact with school for families who are new to Scotland and work with the whole family to support the child’s learning and adjusting to the Scottish education system. EAL teachers are also really important in providing training and support for teachers with children who are learning English- helping teachers to understand the child’s experience, set appropriate work and be sensitive about areas that children may struggle with. For example children learning English may struggle with maths problems that have a lot of writing- they are capable of doing the maths problem but find it difficult to understand what is being asked of them through all the words.

Sadly EAL services are being affected by the cuts that all local authorities are making in funding- in some areas staff are leaving and not being replaced and recently in Glasgow 15 EAL teachers were made redundant. This is at a time when the numbers of children needing EAL support are increasing and the cuts will have a direct impact on them. Glasgow has one of the largest EAL departments with over 50 teachers, with several schools having a dedicated EAL teacher. This has enabled the EAL teachers to look beyond supporting the child to how they can help the family to support their child in their learning. There are learning clubs, helping parents understand how their children are being taught and giving them ideas of games and activities they can do with their children to help support their education. Loosing 15 teachers will impact on the EAL services ability to continue with these activities and the wonderful work that schools have been doing to get families new to Scotland to become involved in the school and their children’s education.

Amal said that Mr Girvan was her hero and helped her to settle into life in Scotland. We know that there are heroes working in EAL across Scotland and are concerned that these services are being reduced and the impact that it will have on new families who don’t have access to the support that welcomed Amal when she arrived in Glasgow.