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 delighted to have a guest blog from Chloe Stewart from Pollokshields Primary Parent Council sharing their experience of running a winter arts festival that celebrated all the cultures in the school
‘He’s behind you!’ The front row were in a frenzy, trying to alert the Jester in the performance of Sleeping Beauty, taking place in the school gym. A typical Christmas scene, in which many of the audience were clutching the clay diva lamps they had made upstairs in the craft area (where reindeer could be decoupaged and jewellery made as well), with the sounds of the African drumming troupe echoing above, and Father Christmas and real live reindeer outside in the Winter Wonderland (until that morning the playground shed).
This was the Pollokshields Primary School Multicultural Winter Arts Festival, the fruit of the hard work of the staff, parents and pupils of the school, and an Awards for All Scotland grant. The event was open to the community and local shops displayed the children’s posters.
The school is on the southside of Glasgow, in an area which census data records as having an ‘ethnic minority’ population of 53%. 82% of school pupils in the area are recorded as ‘ethnic minority’. The school serves families from multiple cultures and the Festival showcased many of them. Street dancing, bhangra, Scottish country dancing and classical Indian dance were all performed, by school pupils as well as professional groups, and many toddlers (including my own!) were entranced by the storytelling sessions. The culinary traditions of the area were reflected in the enthusiasm with which pizza, samosas, Christmas tree biscuits and Irn Bru were being consumed in the dining hall…
Crowds were waiting for the doors to open at 4.30pm and the Winter Wonderland was still in demand nearly 4 hours later. And the verdict from those who attended? From our parents’ Facebook group:
‘my girls didn’t want to come home’
‘Great team and community spirit and total fun for all ages’
‘Winter Arts Festival was great!’
‘The school looked lovely’
We asked 164 parents from ethnic minorities about the Scottish Education system and their children’s school – 73% did not know what the Curriculum for Excellence was.
Gathered Together are putting together a series of workshops to help parents understand and be more involved in their children’s education and what happens in schools.
We will work with the experts in each field to help those parents who are new to Scotland or those who have grown up in a different education system to help explain different stages and aspects of education.
Our partners will include:
Each of the six workshops will be run in both Edinburgh and Glasgow from 10.30-12.30pm. (For details about individual sessions go to our events page)
Places are limited so please book your place as soon as possible by filling out the registration form at the link below:
Quaker Meeting House
|Primary School Information||30 September||1 October|
|Secondary School Information||7 October||8 October|
|Post 16 Education and Choices||21 October||22 October|
|Parental involvement and engagement||28 October||29 October|
|Mother tongue- at home and school||4 November||5 November|
|Children’s Rights in Scotland||11 November||12 November|
Today 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
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