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Practical Considerations In School

a. Schools don't have the necessary resources.

A look at websites across the UK shows schools in affluent areas with incomes of thousands of pounds a year from PTAs. Our PTA raises a valiant £200-£300 annually. This in a low-income area where the numbers of National Front posters on lamp-posts roughly matches the number of times the school is broken into, usually to steal new computers. Teacher

Funding is continually being cut. The EMAG budget will soon be devolved to schools. Experienced language support teachers tend to be undervalued and are leaving the profession as the central EMA services are closed and their roles begin to lack clarity. Teacher, Bolton

Senior managers take parental involvement seriously but do not provide sufficient resources, i.e. staffing, space or time. Teacher, London

 

We feel out on a limb as we have so few BME and EAL pupils yet feel also that we have a need to equip our children with a representative view of the world and an appreciation of diversity that they don't get in their daily life. We need more contact, more resources and more money! Teacher, Leeds

Dedicated Parent Support Advisors are being used in schools in order to strengthen home-school links. The government has provided £53 million for around 600 schools in England for this new role which has been expanded to include all local authorities nationally from April 2008. Advisers offer one-to-one help to parents whose children are misbehaving or truanting. Parent Support Advisers also encourage parents to volunteer at school, attend parents' evenings and keep up a dialogue with their child's teachers.

In Stepney Green Maths & Computing College, Tower Hamlets, around 98% of students are from BME backgrounds. Funded by the New Deal for Communities, this boys' college sponsors a number of activities to get both parents and the general community involved in the school. It sponsors adult learning such as courses in Maths, English as an Additional Language, and ICT skills. There have been one-off learning sessions such as how to use digital photography. It also offered a 13-week course on parenting in Bengali called ‘Strengthening Parents, Strengthening Communities'. When there is an additional language-need, the school uses the appropriate staff.

In the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham a Romani Induction Programme for Parents has been established. The aim was to bridge the communication between home and school by delivering a very basic literacy and ICT course to parents who had requested support in this area. It was hoped that issues such as truancy, discipline and the low attainment of Gypsy Roma pupils in the school might be resolved if parents understood more about how school works and had raised expectations of their own children's learning. Punctuality, discipline and attainment have now improved for some pupils along with better home-school communication. The programme was initiated to ‘break the ice' in order to show that school was non-threatening and to try to improve attendance at parents' evenings. Phone calls and home visits were needed but there was no actual expenditure of funding.

b. Schools don't have enough BME/Traveller staff and when they do, they're only used in ‘crisis' situations.

Too few BME staff in decision-making positions. Often BME staff are marginalised. They are only valued in ‘crisis' management situations and, oh, when OFSTED is involved! As a BME teacher and parent I find school structures often don't want you involved as they don't see any success to be shared - they want complete ownership of success but will hold you entirely culpable for any failings. Teacher and parent, West Midlands

 

There is a stigma or attitude from the white teachers that Asian parents are the two extremes - either pressurising their children in education or they don't understand what's going on. But every household is a different one. There is a lot that education departments can do to help the community by employing more staff from ethnic minorities to bridge the gap. Parent, Cardiff

 

I see children constantly being reprimanded for things that white kids are not, my contributions to projects marginalised, whilst less-thought-through ideas by my colleagues are met with positive enthusiasm. Pointing this out, however, just makes you guilty of not playing the game and you become the enemy within. Teacher

When recruiting staff, Stepney Green Maths & Computing College in Tower Hamlets has tried to employ people who are bilingual.

The Collective of Bangladeshi School Governors, working with Tower Hamlets College, delivered an accredited 10-week course for people who want to become school governors. They also organise conferences on parental involvement.

What parents can do

a. Offer any skills that you have. You can act as a rolemodel for students by going into school and sharing your knowledge with them.

b. Consider becoming a governor. You may feel isolatedbut the rewards for you and your child might be worth it. You can find more information about what governors do at www.governornet.co.uk.

There is a lot of pressure on teachers and staff these days so it is important to understand and be sympathetic towards their situation. Think about what you want for your child and how you can support the school to provide that. Parent, London

 

I am a school governor. Yes it does work. Parent

I myself am a Romany Gypsy and totally understand the culture. Teacher, Oldham


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