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”.
The Scottish Education Awards recognise schools and centres that have developed a vibrant and progressive culture and climate of continuous innovation.
The culture and ethos should promote respect, ambition and achievement while improving outcomes for all learners in ways which eliminate inequity.
Nominations should include practical activities and projects that the establishment has undertaken, detailing the impact these strategies have had on pupils, staff, parents and the community.
In what ways has this partnership impacted on:
Nominations close at 12 noon on Monday 15 February 2016
NOMINATE TODAY AT http://www.scottisheducationawards.org.uk/
Christian Allard is originally from France, he became involved in his daughters’ secondary school Parent Council simply because he wanted to offer the school his support. Involvement in the Parent Council led to involvement in the Community Council, getting involved in the development of the Curriculum for Excellence and eventually to Christian becoming a member of the Scottish Parliament. Hear Christian talking about the impact getting involved in the Parent Council made on him
Our bespoke support for schools and Parent Councils is starting to take effect. One of the first things we do when meeting with the school and Parent Councils is ask them about what they are doing. Using SPTC’s model of the areas of work for Parent Councils (school matters, communication, campaigning and social and fundraising) we get a full picture of what’s happening in the school, what opportunities parents have to get involved and the areas where the school and Parent Council want to develop. Simply having the chance to reflect on what they are doing can be really valuable to Parent Councils- an opportunity to see the wider picture beyond planning the Christmas Fair and recruiting volunteers to help with school trips. Having these discussions often prompts some great ideas for what they could do to over-come barriers like language- including advertising for help translating facebook posts into other languages or building links with local community groups.
As well as providing the space to think about how to engage with ethnic minority parents, Gathered Together is able to share the barriers that ethnic minority parents have shared with us. One of the issues is simply that parents who are not from Scotland don’t know that they can get involved
No one asked me (Mother, Iran)
It can really help to approach parents directly and ask them to help with something specific that uses their skills and experience- such as helping with “language of the month”. When we were discussing this with a teacher she said
Of course, we don’t just ask the children with their hands up to answer questions (teacher, Corpus Christi Primary)
Thinking of how to directly engage with those parents who aren’t involved and may not even be aware that they can be is the first step to promoting parental involvement in the school. We are really excited about the bespoke support and looking forward to sharing more of the ideas that are coming out of our work- keep an eye on this blog
In August we offered to provide “Bespoke Support” for schools and Parent Councils wanting help to better engage with the ethnic minority families in their school. The closing date for applications was 14 September and we had a really hard time choosing the six schools and Parent Councils we would be able to work with. After a lot of discussion and cups of coffee we managed to choose six schools- all with distinct needs, diverse populations and a real desire to reach out to all parents. The people we’ll be working with are:
Corpus Christi Primary School and Parent Council (Glasgow)
Dalry Primary Parent Council (Edinburgh)
Hillpark Secondary Parent Council (Glasgow)
St Francis Xavier Primary School and Parent Council (Falkirk)
St Mary’s Primary Parent Council (Edinburgh)
St Mungo’s Primary Parent Council (Alloa)
We’ll be sharing our journey with each of the schools here and are really excited about learning about what’s happening in each school and how we can best support them- keep an eye on this blog to find out more