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Uxbridge College's Ann McTaggart (left) who set up the scheme benefiting families like Sally Ibrahim's - pictured with her children (left to right) Mariam, John and Ana.A unique scheme set up by Uxbridge College is enabling parents whose first language is not English to participate more effectively in school life.The programme, called Learn English to Help Your Child at Primary
A unique scheme set up by Uxbridge College is enabling parents whose first language is not English to participate more effectively in school life.
The programme, called Learn English to Help Your Child at Primary School, was created by the College at the request of head teachers and deputy head teachers in the Greenford and Perivale Extended Schools Partnership within the London Borough of Ealing. The course is designed to help address the lower levels of achievement of primary school children whose first language is not English, compared to those whose is. Factors in this are thought to include parents’ limited understanding of the UK education system as well as their language skills. The new courses provide these parents with both the language skills and background information to support their children’s education in ways which may boost achievement.
It is already seeing results with parents becoming more involved in school life, for instance by helping children with homework when they had not been able to before, and coming in to school to speak to teachers for the first time.
This course was piloted through Perivale Primary School and has now been rolled out to schools across the Greenford and Perivale partnership area. The value of this learning is reflected in partnership’s decision to fund these 10-week courses in full. The first course was delivered at a number of venues across the area, including Perivale Children’s Centre, and a total of 21 courses have now been delivered to approximately 150 mothers and grandmothers at nine schools/children’s centres.
The scheme builds on the principles of both successful ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) courses for adults, and family learning. However, it not only combines the elements of these in a unique way – it also broadens the scope in a targeted, effective way.
The new course was designed by Ann McTaggart from Uxbridge College following detailed discussions with head teachers and deputies. Mrs McTaggart had already worked closely with Perivale Primary School running successful ESOL courses for parents, and it was while teaching these courses that gaps were identified in what was needed to enable parents to participate more in school life. As a result, the new tailored course was created.
The course, which is delivered by highly qualified ESOL teachers, includes an overview of UK education system and UK culture, a day in the life of a child at school, school reports, healthy eating and community life. It is designed to engage parents/guardians more effectively in what their child is learning at school, to help motivate them and encourage learning. It also boosts confidence for both parents/guardians and children.
Laura Morgan is one of the deputy headteachers who was involved in setting up the course.
Mrs Morgan, deputy headteacher of Perivale Primary School, said: “It has been really useful for the parents to take this course. They learned some very valuable skills on the ESOL courses, but what they weren’t necessarily learning was how to support their children at school. The feedback from the parents and the teachers has been very positive – we know the parents have learned how to support their children more effectively, for instance by hearing them read, and feeling confident to speak to the teachers.”
Mrs McTaggart, who is Section Manager in ESOL Outreach at Uxbridge College, said: “These courses are unique because they have been created to meet the specific needs of a specific group of families. It is incredible to see how much difference having these skills can make to families. It enables parents to get more involved in school life, which in turn makes a difference to how engaged children are in their learning. Everyone wants to see children doing better and this short course provides a powerful opportunity to make this happen.”
One of the mothers who took part in the course is Sally Ibrahim, who has three children Mariam, age six, Ana Simone, five, and John, four.
Sally said: “I learned about the school system in Britain on the course - I didn’t know about it before and it has helped me very much. It was very, very helpful with my children and Ann our tutor had a simple way to give me the information.
“The most important thing was about the education system in England. It helped me so much to understand the system and a typical day at school - my daughter never told me what she did, but now I know! We have more conversations about school, and when I talk to her now about things, she gives me more information because I know what to ask - like what did she do in her break? Now I know if she has a test, which I would not know before. She is in key stage one and now I know what that is!
“We learned how you can help our children do the homework, also how to sit down with them and read a story with them, for instance to ask them questions about the story. We also learned other things including communication around hospital, library, community centre and religious festivals.”
Councillor Patricia Walker, cabinet member for Children and Young People at Ealing Council, said: “Children do better in school if their parents are involved. This course is a way for us to reach out to a particular group of families and help the parents to participate more fully in their children’s education.”