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Communication

a. Parents say that schools don't listen to them and that teachers are unreceptive.

I constantly ring, try to contact teachers. I have told them that I fully support them as teachers and will do anything to support my son too. However, a phone call a month or so can be seen as pestering and teachers do not like that. If they would a) do what they promise to do on Parents' nights and b) get back to you, then I would not have to constantly phone for clarification. Parent, Norwich

 

There is a tradition in which schools and parents only converse when there is a problem. Teacher

At Bordesley Green Girls' School in Birmingham, a parents' group meets with staff monthly.

Many schools have regular questionnaires for parents and - most crucially - demonstrate that they listen to and act on parents' opinions. Other schools have ‘feedback' boxes so that parents can make comments privately.

b. Parents want schools to inform them immediately about issues to do with truanting, misbehaviour, homework etc. rather than waiting for a consultation or parents' evening.

Copland Community School & Technology College in Brent uses text messaging for communication but puts emphasis on using it to send praise messages home. Once set up and administrative staff were trained, it proved easy to use and cost effective.

c. Although most parents in our survey don't see language as a major barrier to communication, many teachers do.

Parents need to be given the opportunity to talk about their concerns in their first language and with somebody from a similar cultural background whom they can trust to speak on their behalf to school staff. Mums want to be involved but it is more difficult for them at secondary level. Teacher, Newcastle Under Lyme

Argyle Primary School, in Camden, has translated its website into Somali and Bengali.

In Hampshire there are a number of programmes for Nepali speakers; the local authority offers Saturday morning English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes for parents and community language classes for children. There is bilingual support for parents and crèche facilities. Parents learn about the education system throughout.

Sir John Lillie Primary School in Hammersmith & Fulham working with the EMTAS (Ethnic Minority Traveller Achievement Service) EAL (English as an Additional Language) Home School Project, has a bulletin board for non-English speaking parents. They also intend to offer two one-hour conversational English sessions per week throughout the school year. One session will be for beginner speakers and the other for intermediate speakers.

Sullivan School in Hammersmith & Fulham, working with the EMTAS EAL Home School Project, has developed dual-language story tapes to be used at home by parents and children. The story is read in the home language by the parent and in English by the EMA (Ethnic Minority Achievement) teacher. The EMA teacher has also developed the strategy of recorded cassettes with letters of the alphabet, first letter sounds and key vocabulary. These are to be used at home and have proved popular with children as they are personalised, with the use of the child's name in the introductory and closing sentences.

Henry Compton School in Hammersmith & Fulham, working with the EMTAS EAL Home School Project has translated their Key Stage 4 Information booklet into Arabic, Somali and Farsi, the top three languages at the school.

d. Parents see the use of jargon as a barrier to communication.

I have tried talking to teachers and the education authority but it is difficult to understand the jargon. Parent

What parents can do:

a. Consider taking English language classes, perhaps with your child.

b. Some schools and local authorities explain education jargon on their websites. The Advisory Centre for Education also has a brief guide to education jargon at www.ace-ed.org.uk/advice/jargon.html.

I was in regular contact with the head teacher, to ensure that she is aware of the importance of my children's education. Parent, London

 

It is difficult for parents who don't speak good English to get involved - especially on their own. Perhaps they could get involved with friends and introduce themselves gently at events such as PTA meetings where all parents should be welcome. Getting involved would help to strengthen links in the community as well as raise the confidence of BME parents and children. Parent, Kent

 

We engage in a wide range of responses to and with Gypsy Traveller families from site visits to ‘dialogue on demand'. Listening is helpful! Teacher, Cambridgeshire