We know that parents of Black and Minority Ethnic, Refugee, Asylum-seeking and Traveller children, just like parents of any other child, want their sons and daughters to achieve their very best. Statistics also consistently show that some children in those groups consistently fail to do so (see www.dfes.gov.uk). They start off in the education system level with other children and yet, progressively fall behind. There are many complex reasons and the remedies will be different for each individual child. However, there has been a great deal of research to show that the involvement of parents in their children's education is one factor that can make a great deal of difference in improving the attainment of children. How mothers, fathers and carers engage with schools and their involvement with their children's learning at home is a very important factor. Given that BME and Traveller parents do care about their children's education, a major question is: what prevents some BME and Traveller parents becoming more effectively involved?
In the summer of 2006, the Runnymede Trust conducted an online survey asking about the barriers to parental involvement. Over 200 parents and teachers responded giving a clear indication of the difficulties that they perceived. The results of our survey to a large extent confirmed the findings of previous research.
Barriers to engagement seem to fall into a number of broad categories: practical considerations within schools; issues at home and within the family; a lack of information; racism within school and society; the isolation and insecurity felt by parents; some schools and parents not considering parental involvement to be a priority. It is clear, though, that teachers and parents are attempting to overcome the problems and a number of positive suggestions came from our survey. We also looked at the creative ways in which local authorities, schools, teachers and community organisations across the country are attempting to deal with the problems. In this section, we share practical examples of good practice that are in place and that can be duplicated.
There is, clearly, no one solution and what works in one school or community might not work in another. However, we hope that the examples of good practice presented here will lead to further discussion, perhaps modification, and might contribute to parents, teachers, schools, local authority and Government working together more effectively to improve the attainment of BME, Refugee, Asylum-Seeking and Traveller children in schools.