On 1 February Gathered Together delivered our last “Equalities and Engagement” training at Hillpark Secondary, Glasgow. Hearing about the experiences of schools and parents is always one of the best parts of our work and in the recent training we’ve come across some fantastic examples of Parent Councils being creative and finding new ways to reach out to the families in their schools. We just wanted to share some of the brilliant ideas that have come out of our last few training sessions
Meeting new parents Not every parent knows what a Parent Council is or does, particularly those parents who come from another culture. To address this and get their faces known right from the start, Parent Councils are getting involved in the transition time- meeting new parents when they come to visit their child’s new school. This gives parents the chance to learn what a Parent Council does and how they can get their voice heard in the school, it’s also a really useful chance for parents to ask PC members the important questions that only other parents can answer like- where is best to buy school uniform?
Focus groups Parent Councils look at a lot of different issues- including supporting the school, fundraising, communicating with parents and developing policies. It can be hard for a parent to join these meetings when there is so much being discussed. In response to this one Parent Council decided to create smaller sub groups looking at a particular issue and feeding back to the main Parent Council. These groups look at things like improving the playground, planning for events, discussing policies around homework or bullying. By having meetings that are just looking at one thing, parents who are interested can get involved and have their voice heard without having to commit to joining the Parent Council.
Books in other languages When families come to Scotland, it’s really important that their children are supported to keep their home language (supporting the first language can make learning another language easier and means that children can still speak to their family back home). However it can be a struggle to find books in the home language. In response to this some Parent Councils are trying to create a multi-lingual school library- asking parents to donate books in their home language and, in the case of one school, getting parents from EAL (English as an Additional Language) families to vote for their favourite books and the PC bought the most popular books.
Keeping language “parent friendly” Schools send out huge amounts of information to parents. With the new Curriculum for Excellence a lot of information about the new system and how children will be taught and assessed has been sent out to parents, but this information can be hard to read with lots of confusing words, abbreviations and acronyms. One Parent Council raised this with the head teacher and the school started working with the Parent Council to make the information they sent out easier to read and avoiding education “jargon”.
For the past two years Gathered Together has been supporting parents from ethnic minorities to become more involved in their children’s learning and school communities. We’ve been working directly with schools, Parent Councils and parents from ethnic minorities (you can read about our work with EM parents and the good practice that’s going on in schools and Parent Councils here). We know that engaging with parents who are new to Scotland can be a challenge and also how important it is that these parents are supported to be able to help their children’s learning and be part of the school community. We also know how much parents from other cultures can bring to schools- helping children learn about other cultures, religions and languages and to become responsible citizens
This term we are planning to support six schools or Parent Councils, providing bespoke support to meet the needs of the individual school/ Parent Council to engage more effectively with families from ethnic minorities. Our support is up to 10 contact hours and the bulk of the support would need to take place by December 2015
The support will include:
If you have any questions please email email@example.com or phone 0141 548 8047.
Complete this form Bespoke-support-application-form (3)
The deadline for applications is 14 September 2015 (applications to be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org)
It is difficult for children coming into a class where they don’t know anyone, it is even harder when that child has little or no English. While lots of children adapt brilliantly to the new culture, the first while can be challenging when they are not able to communicate and join in with the rest of their class. Marion Stempczyk and Kayee Chui from Falkirk’s Bilingual and Traveller Pupil Support Service (BaTPSS) explained to us the importance of being able to meet with the children and their family before they started school- to give them the opportunity to assess the children’s English level, explain how things work in the Scottish education system and so that the BaTPSS team can help the school get ready for the new students.
We have heard some wonderful stories about teachers who taught the class how to say “hello” in Chinese, so that the new student would be welcomed in his own language and straight away get a feeling of belonging. However, as Marion explained, a lot of teachers are unsure how best to work with students who arrive from a different culture, with limited English and different experiences of school. How can teachers make sure that a child feels included in the class when they don’t have the language skills to join in?
This is where the BaTPSS team come in, as well as helping the children develop their English, Marion and Kayee work with the teachers to help them understand what it is like for the children and how they can support them in the classroom. English as an Additional Language services are only able to support children for a limited period of time and it’s essential that the classroom teachers have the skills to be able to support children who have English as an additional language in their learning.
Here is Marion talking about the work they do with teachers
We delivered one of our last sessions in Fife (for the moment- we’re hoping to get more dates for further training soon) at Rimbleton Primary in Glenrothes. At the start we always ask parents what they are already doing to get parents involved and were utterly amazed with how much the schools and parent councils were already doing. As well as the school concerts, coffee mornings and fundraising events there were schools running bike courses for parents and children, craft evenings before Christmas (when families could come in and make Christmas cards together) and pre-school Fair Trade breakfasts for parents and children.
One of my favourite ideas to come out of the session was a survey for parents to find out about what they know about the Parent Council and how they could get involved. This is incredibly helpful for the Parent Council to find out how aware parents are about their work, skills that parents might have and particular people who could use their skills to help the school. The problem with most surveys is that parents don’t answer them- it’s very easy to put off more paperwork from the school or another survey monkey email. But some schools have learnt to use children- the children create the survey in class then ask their parents the questions as homework. This means that about 98% of the parents actually respond.
Please try this at your school and let us know how it goes- good luck!
As part of our work to support ethnic and cultural minority parents to become more involved in their child’s education and the school community we will be holding sessions for parents in ABERDEEN at the end of October.
We have two sessions booked for Parents and one for Parent Councils, have a look below for details of the sessions.