As the Gathered Together Project comes to the end of its funding, I thought it would be a good time to ask the staff team to reflect on some of the aspects of their work over the last 2-3 years. Judy shares her favourite memories from the project.
Ten months ago, I was excited about the prospects of participating in a project that I strongly believed in and am still convinced should continue. Over the years the Gathered Together team has developed a variety of resources to support parents, schools, Parent Councils and community organisations to improve parental involvement- just when the team has acquired the relevant expertise to make a difference, the project is coming to an end!
When I started, I thought making a contribution to the project would be difficult as it had been going on for over two years and most possibilities would have been explored. But there are many aspects and approaches to improving parental involvement, some of which the GT team had only just begun to get to grips with.
Looking back, I think that engaging with community organisations was an important aspect of our work. The lack of understanding about how the Scottish education system works and how parents can support their children is a major challenge for community organisations. Through an Action Learning Set, we were able to share the knowledge and experience gained over the life of our project with participating community organisations. Community practitioners implementing action research at work meant that new strategies were introduced to enable them to provide a better-informed service for families.
Identifying that EM parents and the community organisations that support them are not always up to date with the policy environment is another area we had started developing. There are aspects of child protection that many EM parents do not understand and community organisations could help raise awareness of the legal framework around children. Working with service providers to raise awareness about the diverse cultures could also improve the integration process for families.
I hope the toolkit and the resources developed will reach a wide-range of stakeholders and help support the growing number of children and families coming to Scotland to understand how the school system works and the research we have done about EM parents’ experiences will highlight the need for schools and other education services to put processes in place to support the education of children from different cultural backgrounds and diverse circumstances.
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.
Have a look at the our FAQ page for some basic information on how the project came to be, why we are needed and what we can offer.
Gathered Together is about PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT and how every parent/carer’s voice matters when it comes to getting involved in school life and their child’s education. We offer different workshops to help tackle barriers, build confidence and get more parents involved.
What do we offer?
Information Session on Parental Involvement
We hold workshops for Ethnic and Cultural Minority parents that aim to discuss barriers they face when getting involved with schools, positive ways to overcome those barriers and inform parents of their rights and responsibilities to get involved with their child’s education. We want to hear from all parents and carers from all ethnic and cultural backgrounds about their feelings on education, schools and why learning is important for their child.
We gather this information and feed it back to schools and parent councils so they can improve their practice and become more inclusive. Gathered Together have been successfully working with different ethnic and cultural minority organisations to deliver this training in our 7 pilot areas.
We often deliver these workshops alongside community groups and organisations that work with EM parents, for example we have held successful sessions with Fife Migrants Forum, Karibu, the International Women’s Group and EAL/ESOL classes to name a few. If you are part of a community organisation or if you would like more information about this session – please contact us.
Involving and Recruiting More People to your Parent Group Workshop
SPTC have a long history of delivering successful and informative workshops to Parent Councils across Scotland and are working with us to deliver this training.
Our workshop gives Parent Councils the chance to think about why parents aren’t getting involved in the school community and provides the opportunity to develop practical solutions to help to overcome any barriers. We want to share the good practice we are finding and offer constructive advice when it comes to involving parents.
If you are in our 7 pilot areas and you think that your parent council or group would benefit from our training – please contact us.
What else do we offer?
As well as working with Parent Councils, we are meeting with schools to gather evidence of good practice to be shared across local authorities. We have some wonderful examples of work that schools are do to create an inclusive atmosphere and support parental participation.
This blog will used to share case studies of schools and parent councils who are successfully reaching out to parents who would otherwise be marginalised or left out of the loop.
For example St Stephen’s primary school in Glasgow holds an International week every year, parents from diverse backgrounds (including Iraq, Eritrea and Pakistan) are invited to teach classes songs or dances from their home countries to be performed on the Friday. All the parents are invited to attend the performance and bring food to be shared.
More examples of good practice to follow!