A few weeks ago we were invited to join Stirling Council’s English as an Additional Language teachers Tricia Davenport and David Fletcher for an information session for new parents about Scottish Education. The session was a whistle stop tour of the schools system in Scotland that answered a lot of questions and helped me to finally understand how the new exam system works. Among the questions answered were:
We know from our work with parents who are new to Scotland that they have a lot of questions about the education system. From the fact that children in the UK start school age 5 (unlike many European countries where children don’t start formal education until they are 6 or 7) to the lack of formal testing in primary school there are big differences between parents’ own experience of school and the way their children are being taught. Information events like the one I attended in Stirling are vital as they give parents the opportunity to ask questions and understand how things work in Scotland. To make sure that the parents fully understood the session translators were provided including two sixth year pupils (from China and Poland). Tricia and David helped them to prepare before the session and both the young interpreters sat with a parent and explained what was being said by the presenter. As well as making sure that the parents were given the information in their own language the student interpreters will get certificates recognising their work. By giving them the chance to use their linguistic skills the EAL service was showing them the value of speaking two languages and to recognise what a gift bilingualism is.
Reaching out and engaging with these families can make a huge difference and give them reassurance and a sense of belonging. As David said, “We realise how traumatic it can be for families who move to a new education system, and there can be significant differences between education in Scotland and in other countries. These sessions are a good opportunity to meet parents in an informal setting, to discuss concerns and questions.”