From our work in rural areas, including Falkirk and Stirling and Clackmannanshire we’ve heard the experiences of parents who were the only Ethnic Minority family in the school. Feeling the odd one out always makes involvement more difficult, particularly in schools where other parents have known each other since they were children. Parents spoke about the difficulty to speak to other parents when it seemed that everyone knew each other really well and they were not confident with their English.
Feeling different is also difficult for children, some mothers spoke about their children being embarrassed by their mother coming into school wearing a salwar kameez. They can also feel uncomfortable about the fact their parents have poor English and being asked to translate for them. In an interview we did recently with two mothers who are part of the Rainbow Muslim Women’s group, Samina spoke about the difficulties to getting involved. Feeling different and not understanding the school system- who to ask for, what her children were being taught etc, made her reluctant to have contact with the school. Other parents have found the very vocabulary of modern education confusing- their children talk about “learn-its” (short sums) and they have no idea what this means or how to support their children with homework. To hear more about Samina and Tasneem’s experience go to http://gatheredtogether.bemis.org.uk/?p=878
Samina said that she has never been specifically asked by the school to get involved- just through general letters asking for help. We think that specifically approaching parents, recognising their skills and interests, can help parents feel a part of the school and help the school to celebrate its diversity. We know parents who have gone into school to teach the class how to count in their mother tongue- this makes their children feel proud of their parents and that their mother tongue is something to be valued not ashamed of. You can also find out about the bilingual story telling group at St Albert’s primary in Glasgow that has parents telling stories to children in English and Urdu- http://gatheredtogether.bemis.org.uk/?p=854