a. Parents feel that they don't know enough about how the education system works and don't know their rights.

In Norfolk, Traveller Education Early Years practitioners visit parents to discuss their hopes and fears regarding their children attending pre-school and school. Sometimes, the discussions take place as part of play session visits for children in their early years who are either of pre-Foundation age or of Foundation age and not yet accessing early education provision in the local community.

In Hampshire, parents of new arrivals are invited to school for an interview with a project officer who outlines the education system and gives information about adult education opportunities, if appropriate.

Haringey have created a Refugee Education section on their website with translated information and curriculum resources (www.haringeylearning.net).

In Southampton there is a Cultural and Linguistic Mediator scheme that acts as outreach to asylum- and refugee-seeking families. The Cultural and Linguistic Mediators are from a refugee background and help parents and students in schools. They support them in meetings and help them to understand school policies.

Ealing Black Pupils Achievement Programme and parents/carers from three pilot schools visited Brunel University. There was an introductory talk about admissions and finance then Black students from the university spoke about their own experiences at Brunel and how they got there. The students then gave a guided tour of the facilities at Brunel. Parents/carers were able to talk about the role they could play in the Black Pupils Achievement Programme.

In Swindon, an Asylum Seeker and Refugee Support Teacher often accompanies parents for the initial visit to a secondary school or to the Induction Day for Year 6 pupils who will be moving into the secondary phase. This helps them to form a relationship with their child's teachers and Head of Year.

b. Parents don't know enough about National Curriculum subjects and how they are taught.

Schools only want the children to be taught Maths using the method they have chosen. Having been educated in Africa, we learned and used many methods to arrive at the same answer. Parent

The London Borough of Haringey has been part of the SHARE programme since 1999. This programme encourages parents and carers, children and teachers to work together to improve home-school links and pupil achievement. Parents find the programme helps them to understand the learning process in the classroom. The SHARE programme offers the opportunity for accreditation for those parents who take part, but most parents participate so that they can ‘spend focused time with their children doing the activities that they have been shown at the SHARE meeting'. Schools that participate in the programme can choose which parents they wish to target. SHARE isn't specifically aimed at BME parents but they form the majority of parents attending SHARE groups in Haringey.

Bolton Gaskell Community School, working with Bolton Ethnic Minority Achievement Service, invites parents to attend weekly assemblies and then follow the children through to class to take part in lessons. They have links with colleagues in secondary education providing support for parents who are not confident in either speaking English or understanding the education system.

Thames View Junior School, Barking & Dagenham runs ‘Keeping Up With Your Children' courses at Barking Adult colleges.

The Effective Partnership with Parents (EPPa) Action team at Lansbury Lawrence School, Tower Hamlets developed a range of activity packs to support the language, numeracy and science curriculum. Parent volunteers design and make the packs with staff and discuss how they can be developed to support learning. Packs include games, simple experiments and books accompanied by props. Families borrow the packs for use at home.

EPPa have also worked in partnership with parents to set up a shop supplying educational materials and stationery items at cost price. Parents regularly evaluate the stock and let the team know what else they want them to buy.

At Argyle Primary School in Camden every subject co-ordinator runs sessions explaining how their subject is taught.

Stepney Green Maths & Computing College in Tower Hamlets sponsors days when parents can come in and learn about the curriculum, courses available, and how to help their children to revise for exams. Instead of simply sending the information home in a letter, they try to get parents into the school to learn about what their children are doing.

Northumberland Park Community School in Haringey has a Mathematics class in Turkish using puzzles, games and other fun activities to stimulate and challenge families. Parents help the children to solve problems in their first language. There are plans to extend such classes to the Somali and other minority ethnic communities. The school also offers language classes, provided by the College of North East London. As they are community classes, parents can bring their children as accompanying learners. Parents develop their literacy skills through the help of their children.

At Swanlea School, Tower Hamlets, the Maths department provided student/parents sessions. Parents worked with their children to find out about what they are learning and how to support them with homework. The sessions were interactive and parents were given resource packs to take home.

Wendell Park Primary School in Hammersmith & Fulham, working with the EMTAS (Ethnic Minority and Traveller Achievement Service) EAL (English as an Additional Language) Home School Project, held themed coffee sessions. Staff and parents met in an informal setting to discuss key issues and to exchange relevant information and questions. Some of the themes covered included: ‘how best to help your child in reading and writing', ‘homework', ‘secondary school transfer' and ‘what do parents want?'. During the sessions, parents were able to gain an understanding of the schemes and strategies used within the school and specific training and advice was shared.

What parents can do:

a. Ask if you can sit in on a lesson. (Primary schools are more likely to agree than secondary schools.)

b. Visit websites that give information about the National Curriculum such as the DCSF Parents Centre site or QCA.

c. Find out if your school runs workshops or has open days to explain the curriculum. If it doesn't, then you can find out if other parents would welcome them and ask the school if they can be arranged.

d. Ask your child to explain what he/she is learning. This will also help to reinforce their learning.

e. Spend as much time as you can in school, perhaps volunteering, and look at the pupils' work that is displayed on the walls. This can give a good idea of what they're learning.

f. The 4 other sections in Tell Me What I Need to Know all give information about how the education system in England works at each of the different Key Stages. You will find a lot of the information you need there as well as other sources of help and advice.

Parents need a far greater understanding of how the education system works, what grades mean, how they can tell if the school is not setting high enough expectations of their children. Parents need to ask hard questions and to be supported in this. Parent

 

I am not a black parent, but have black children. My strongest advice would be that parents need to know far more about how their children are assessed etc. and go into school with that information so they can ask the right questions. Parent