With the recent arrival of families from Syria we have been thinking about the experiences of parents from asylum seeker backgrounds and their relationship with school. Asylum seekers, like other migrant families, are new to the Scottish education system and often new to English. They will need support to be able to help their children with their learning and to understand how their children are being taught. Asylum seeker children also may be traumatised by their experiences in their home country and in the journey to the UK. Schools are the first communities that they will come into contact with and even small acts can make a big difference to helping families feel welcomed
The teachers try to speak Arabic to us, some words, at the school there is a lot of culture awareness, teachers and pupils are kind. My kids have never been bullied. It also provides Halal food. Flags of a lot of countries are put up on the walls of the school (Both parents, Syria)
Gathered Together conducted a questionnaire of over 164 parents from ethnic minorities about their experiences of school, their involvement and knowledge of the Scottish education system, from this questionnaire we identified 16 respondents who were from asylum seeker or refugee backgrounds including countries like Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. From analysing their responses it was clear that, while the majority of parents were really happy with their child’s school they did not feel that they understood the education system and the exam system. We believe that parents are partners in their children’s learning and they need the right support to be able to work with the school to enable their children to thrive.
I would like to know more- how to help my son in his homework, but I don’t know how (Mother, Iraq)
You can read the briefing paper on the experiences of asylum seeker families and our recommendations here
Bemis Scotland and 4Children have joined together to put on 3 workshops here in Scotland where you can give us your views on what it is like to be a parent or carer in today’s world. Please take time to join us at one of the workshops on 30th October and give us your views.
4Children Inquiry Surveys – Britain’s Families: thriving or surviving?
Children and families charity 4Children has recently launched a major Inquiry into modern family life in Britain. “Britain’s Families: thriving or surviving?” asks parents, carers and young people across the country about what it is like to live in Britain today. We want to uncover the challenges and opportunities they face, and ask what can be done to better support family life. You can read more about the Inquiry at: http://4children.org.uk/Page/thriving-or-surviving
As part of the project, there will be three focus groups in Glasgow on Friday 30th October, for parents and carers who would be interested in participating. BEMIS Scotland are particularly keen to make sure that the voice of the diverse ethnic minority community is heard. The focus groups will be taking place at Centrum Building, 38 Queen Street, Glasgow at the following times:
When: Friday 30th October
At: 11.00 am – 12.30 pm
OR 1.00 pm – 2.30 pm
OR 3.00 pm – 4.30 pm
Where: The Board Room, 1st Floor, Centrum Building, 38 Queen Street, Glasgow
Please book your session here
If you have any questions please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are unable to attend a focus group but are interested in taking part in the Inquiry, 4Children are also running two surveys to gather views from people in England, Scotland and Wales. One is for children and young people (aged under 21) and the other is for parents and carers. These are available via the following links:
Children and Young People Survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/inquiryYP
Parents and Carers Survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/inquiryparent
The surveys take approximately 10-15 minutes to complete. To thank those who participate for their time, we are offering everyone who completes one of the surveys the chance to be entered into a prize draw to win £50 of Love to Shop vouchers.
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
This is a guest blog from Robert McGill (Teacher of English as an Additional Language South Ayrshire Council) sharing the work South Ayrshire has done to engage with parents who are new to Scotland.
On Friday 28th November, 2014 we had one of the best experiences of our teaching careers when we held the first English as an Additional Language (EAL) Parent Forum in South Ayrshire. Approximately 55 parents made the extra effort to come to the John Pollock Centre in Ayr to tell us about their and their children’s experiences in our schools. It was an excellent forum to get to know each other a little bit better.
Everyone was excited about this event particularly when we saw the invitation letter acceptances coming back in such big numbers. 12 languages were represented on the day: Spanish, Tagalog, Punjabi, Visayan, Swahili, Yoruba, Greek, Turkish, Russian, Nepali, Polish and English. We had sent the invitations out to parents in the home languages as well as in English and the parents made special mention of this telling us that they really appreciated our efforts to use their home languages. Of the 12 languages represented there was a request for four interpreters: Punjabi, Spanish, Nepali and Polish which we were able to provide. These interpreters played such an important role in helping everyone to communicate and share with each other.
As this was our first ever parent forum we were to have we looked at what the issues and concerns of parents are from carrying out a search of the internet. We found the ‘Bilingual Matters’ website to be a wealth of information as they have worked extensively with bilingual parents and have kindly shared their findings and experiences. We also found the British Council EAL Nexus website very useful and we adapted information gained from these websites to provide information to help parents understand the Scottish education system and supporting bilingualism.
As we delivered our talk, which highlighted the importance of developing the home language at home and that parents didn’t need to speak English at home, you could see relief appearing on the parents’ faces. More important than focusing on English is the quality of communication within the family. We talked about the challenges of families with bilingual siblings with sometimes the older sibling wanting to speak English and how this affected the younger brothers’ and sisters’ use and development of the home language. Our core message was that bilingualism was positive and advantageous for all young people.
The core message from the parents was that having specialist language teachers helped their children to learn English and to settle into school life. The parents also told us that they liked and valued the bilingual books which we send home to help parents and children develop the home language and which we have in schools as a way to value and an opportunity to use home languages. The parents told us that interpretation in the schools is fundamental to help them communicate with class teachers and schools. Bilingual parents would like more EAL support available in schools, they would like more support for developing English at home and they wanted easier access to the EAL teacher.
We now have EAL information leaflets translated into some of our home languages which have the contact details for each EAL teacher. We were able to receive funding from South Ayrshire to have key school documents translated into Polish. We have created management advice for translated documents. We have increased our bilingual books library. We are going to continue to have an annual EAL Parents Forum. It was a great day which the parents and EAL staff enjoyed and in which we both learned so much.
Here are some of the information leaflets created for EAL parents
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