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Leading Edge



Include Us: strengthening communication and involvement of asylum seeking and refugee parents in high school education in Leeds

Include Us: strengthening communication and increasing the involvement of asylum seeking and refugee parents in high school education in Leeds

Nola Pugh The Childrens Society Leading Edge Initiative Based at the LEAP Programme, Leeds March 2010

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Acknowledgements Sincere thanks to all parents and practitioners who gave their time to share experience, knowledge and opinions, as well as those who assisted in accessing participants, particularly colleague, Steve Richards. Thank you to colleagues at The Childrens Society, Myfanwy Franks, Senior Researcher, for her advice and support, Judith Shalkowski, Rachel Arundel, Beth Aze and Rebecca Cattle for reading drafts and offering valuable feedback. Thank you to the interpreters involved, who provided a professional and valuable service.

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The Childrens Society is a leading childrens charity committed to making childhood better for all children in the UK. We take action to prevent, rescue and support children facing life trapped in a vicious circle of fear and harm; a vicious circle driven by violence, neglect, poverty and discrimination, which destroys childhood and wrecks community living. We give children the hope and confidence they need to face the future with optimism. We never turn away.

The Childrens Society Leading Edge Initiative is a national programme delivered from six sites across England. The Young Peoples Fund at the Big Lottery funds the Initiative until March 2010. The Initiative works in partnership with secondary schools and colleges in England. It delivers high quality, participative interventions that ensure refugees and asylum seekers feel safe, welcomed, included and able to achieve in their education.

The Childrens Society LEAP Programme is based in Leeds and operates across the city. LEAP stands for Listening, Empowerment, Advocacy and Participation and it works to listen to and promote the inclusion of disabled children as well as refugee and asylum seeking children and young people, particularly in education and within the community. We aim to raise awareness, promote diversity, and encourage inclusion and integration.

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Contents Introduction ......................................................................................................5 Background......................................................................................................5 Definitions ........................................................................................................6 Methodology ....................................................................................................7 Participants ......................................................................................................7 1.0 Arrival in the UK .........................................................................................9 1.1 Information about the UK education system ..............................................9 1.2 Welcome to Leeds': A guide to how the education system works .............9 1.3 Welcome DVD .........................................................................................10 1.4 Accessing a school place.........................................................................11 2.0 School Induction ......................................................................................14 2.1 Being shown around the school ...............................................................14 2.2 Information about the school curriculum ..................................................16 2.3 Use of professional interpreters ...............................................................17 3.0 Experiences of communication ................................................................19 3.1 The perspective of school staff ................................................................19 3.2 The perspective of parents ......................................................................19 3.3 Positive experiences of communication ...................................................20 4.0 Involving parents......................................................................................22 4.1 Addressing issues of bullying...................................................................22 4.2 Giving feedback on progress, parents evenings and school reports........23 4.3 Involving parents in school-based activities .............................................25 4.4 Activities to increase knowledge of the UK education system .................27 5.0 Understanding the specific needs of asylum seekers and refugees ........29 5.1 Awareness of need ..................................................................................29 5.2 Areas to strengthen, the perspective of school staff ................................30 6.0 Conclusion and recommendations...........................................................32 7.0 References and further information..........................................................34

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Introduction Include Us: strengthening communication and increasing the involvement of asylum seeking and refugee parents in high school education in Leeds was carried out over a three-month period as part of the Childrens Society Leading Edge Initiative at the LEAP programme, Leeds. The study looks at the experiences of communication between refugee and asylum seeking parents and high school staff in Leeds. It has captured parents experiences of being involved in school processes and has given parents an opportunity to suggest other ways they would like to be involved. The findings are intended for anyone who works with refugee and asylum seeking and children and families in schools and within the local education authority. The research highlights areas of good practice and gives a voice to parents and school staff. It also identifies learning points to inform and strengthen practice in the future, improving outcomes for asylum seeking and refugee children and families.

Background Schools have a legislative duty to promote inclusion and race equality under the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000. The Education Act 2002 makes specific reference to schools having responsibility to ensure that refugee and asylum seekers aged 5 to 16 years receive the same quality and access to education as other pupils. The Education and Inspections Act 2006 introduced a duty on all maintained schools in England to promote community cohesion. In practice, this involves challenging all types of discrimination and inequality, removing barriers to access and participation in education, and closing the achievement gaps. Previous national research (see Doyle and McCorriston 2008 and Franks 2006) have identified a number of key barriers facing refugee children in terms of attainment, and accessing and feeling included in education. Furthermore, research found that a lack of English language was a major barrier to effective engagement with parents in the education process. Schools reported difficulties in communicating students progress to parents. Young people, parents and carers often experience a lack of familiarity with the schooling system and can find schools intimidating and confusing. (Ibid) The benefits of family or carers(s) involvement in a childs education have long been recognised. Research suggests that parental involvement in education seems to be a more important influence than poverty, school environment, and the influence of peers. (Every Child Matters, 2003)

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Additionally, Desforges (2003) has highlighted a large body of evidence that link parental involvement in a childs learning with a childs subsequent achievement. Harris and Goodhall (2007) distinguish between parental involvement and engagement. They assert that parental engagement, which is linked to learning, increases a childs achievement. On the other hand, parental involvement can encompass a whole range of activities within the school, and has little impact on pupil achievement where these activities are not directly connected to learning. Despite this, it could be argued that parental involvement may increase the chances of parental engagement, especially in the case of parents who are new to the UK and the British education system. For example, ESOL classes at a school would develop a parents English language skills, and enable them to better support their child with schoolwork. This piece of research explores the ways in which asylum seeking and refugee parents are involved in educational processes in Leeds. The research captures the experience of parents and school staff, highlights areas of good practice, and identifies learning points to inform and strengthen practice in the future. It suggests ways that this can be built in to extended schools and community cohesion initiatives to increase the inclusion and attainment of young refugees and asylum seekers in education.

Definitions It should be noted that for the purpose of this piece of work and for the ease of reading parent implicitly includes carers or anyone else with significant responsibility for the care of a child. Child is taken to include every human being below the age of eighteen years. A refugee is someone whose asylum application has been successful and who has been given permission to remain in the UK having proved they would face persecution back home. An asylum Seeker is a person who has left their country of origin and formally applied for asylum but whose application has not yet been decided. ESOL means English for speakers of other languages. EAL is English as an additional language.

It should be noted due to the limited timescale and scope of this research, this report should be taken as a snapshot rather than a comprehensive overview of the experiences of parents and school staff in Leeds.

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Methodology This research was undertaken using qualitative face-to-face interviews with parents, and semi-structured questionnaires with school staff. Professionally trained face-to-face interpreters were used for most interviews with parents. Some parents chose to conduct the interview in English. The methodology was chosen to meet the specific needs of participants. For example, face-to-face interviews with parents helped to build rapport and trust and did not require the use of any written English. Semi structured questionnaires were sent to school staff. This method was chosen as it offered more flexibility and took less time to complete, an important consideration due to the time pressure some school staff are under.

Participants Initial meetings were held with two senior local education authority staff members. The research engaged with 16 parents and 20 school staff. Parents who participated in this research were either seeking asylum or had received refugee status, and had at least one child who attended high school in Leeds. Some of the parents were previous or existing service users of The Childrens Society LEAP Programme. Other parents had not received a service from The Childrens Society and were accessed through partner agencies. Parents originated from the following countries: Democratic Republic of Congo Zimbabwe Sudan Ethiopia Eritrea Afghanistan Iran Pakistan

Parents time of arrival in the UK varied from 2006 to 2009. Some parents arrived in the UK alone and their children arrived at a later date.

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School staff who participated held the following roles: Head of Year Teacher Head Learning Mentor Learning Mentor EAL Course Leader EAL Coordinator EAL Teacher EAL Support Worker Community Cohesion Manager Black Minority Ethnic (BME) Link Officer Attendance and Pastoral Support Manager Receptionist

Parents and staff were linked to 13 high schools in Leeds. In addition, two parents had children that attended Specialist Inclusive Learning Centres. Many parents also had children in primary school, and some had children who attended college.

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1.0 Arrival in the UK 1.1 Information about the UK education system The parents who participated in the research said that they were given very little or no information about education of their children when they first arrived in the UK, despite coming into contact with a number of agencies associated with immigration and housing. Most parents said that they were told by family members or friends to go to the local education authority. One parent said that she was given information from a voluntary organisation. All parents interviewed said they would have liked to receive more information about education in the UK, and guidance on accessing a school place. The information that I was told was that you have to send children to school. I had a form to complete. That was it. I didn't get any information about school in the UK, how it is. They didn't explain anything to me about schoola staff member from the education authority spoke to my daughter. I didnt understand what he was saying. All he asked me to do was to sign at the bottom of the formI would have preferred more information. Parent I didnt have any information. I came here alone. I dont have any children. When my younger brother and sister joined me and I had to try and get the information myself. I asked my friend who has children. Brother, sole carer for two younger siblings. All I received was a information sheet from The Refugee Council in my language, Dari. It was one line saying in England children need to go to School between the ages of 5-16. There was nothing else, it was very little information. Parent

1.2 Welcome to Leeds': A guide to how the education system works information leaflet Welcome to Leeds is a concise yet informative leaflet produced by the local Education authority. It gives an overview of how the education system works in the UK, and provides useful contact numbers for further information and help. The leaflet is available as a hard copy in English. The leaflet is available in a number of other languages to download from the Internet. None of the parent interviewed had seen the leaflet. Most said that they would like a copy of the leaflet in their home language. Most parents said it would be difficult for them and other newly arrived parents to access this information online. Not all parents go to computer or know how to use a computer. Yes it is good to print that one in many languages. Parent In my opinion, most people especially asylum seeking or refugee parents; they don't have access to the Internet. If they printed it, this
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would be fine. Lets say myself, if I get this information printed in my language, thats very important, I dont need any interpreter or translation. If its possible it will really help the parents. Parent Now I understand how to use the Internet, but when I first arrived, I had never used the Internet. Parent I don't have access to a computer. Mainly I read Farsi language, but it would be very difficult for me to use the Internet to read this. In this current situation, if they gave me a paper copy it would be a lot more helpful for me because I dont have access to a computer. Parent Yes it should be available in other languages. If they say other languages on the internet, you know when many people come from Africa, we are not used to the internet, its like magic for us, we have to learn from basic, we have to learn how to touch, you know its not easy. How will I go there to the Internet? How will I start? Parent Yes it is good to see it on the Internet. If we must do it, its ok. But if people can give us the information in a leaflet this will be better. I think it would be good to have it in other languages. Parent Personally I would like it in English. I would use my dictionary and it will help me improve my language. Some people they can't use the Internet, they dont know how to use it. Its definitely a good idea to have this available in other languages. Parent Yes I can read Urdu it would be good to have this leaflet available to read in Urdu. I can't go to the Internet. I am not familiar with computers. I cant go there because of my disability, I can't sit properly because of my disability. Parent Learning Points ~ International parents welcome further information about the UK education system when they first arrive. The Welcome to Leeds information leaflet could be disseminated more widely through other agencies and schools. Parents would like to have the leaflet printed and available to read as a hard copy in their home language.

1.3 Welcome DVD Parents were presented with the idea of a Welcome DVD to help familiarise them with their child new school, and the education system in the UK generally. The DVD would be a visual tool produced by each school and shown as part of the induction. It could also be lent to families to watch in their own time. The DVD could be produced in a variety of languages.

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I don't understand enough about the school. All the information I have is what I hear from my sonI would prefer some information from the school. If they could write it down for me then I could understand it better. I like the idea of a DVD so that I can learn about the school. This is a very good idea. Parent I have never visited my daughters school because of my disability. If there was a DVD to help me see the school and understand more about the school this could be very good. Disabled Parent Case example of good practice. Welcome DVD for parents pilot project The Childrens Society Leading Edge Initiative are working in partnership with a high school in Leeds to produce a welcome DVD aimed at welcoming and informing international parents and pupils about the school. Pupils from diverse backgrounds have participated in the design and filming and feature throughout the DVD. The DVD uses of a variety of languages, and its heavy emphasis on the visual makes it inclusive for a large range of audiences. The impact of this resource will be captured through Evaluation. It is hoped that the project will replicated in a number of schools, resulting in positive outcomes for parents and children.

1.4 Accessing a school place Parents had mixed experiences of accessing a school place for their child. More than half of the parents interviewed said they experienced difficulties getting their children into school. In some cases, they were assisted by the voluntary sector, for example, Steve Richards, Connexions PA with The Childrens Society LEAP Programme. When we first came to Leeds in November, the schools had already started so it was really hard to find a school. It was easier to find a school for my young children who were at primary school. My younger children waited two months. For my son to go to high school, we had to wait three months. For my daughter who is disabled, we had to wait a year. Parent This was difficult. The people at the education authority dont seem to understand about children who are out of education. I took my sister there. She is 16. They told us she is too old for school. I took her to college. They told me she is too young for college. I understand if they had told me its over crowded and I would have accepted that, but it wasnt and it was as if they didnt care at all. Brother, sole carer for two younger siblings

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Every children has the right to education, even the government makes it so that children can not stay at home. If a parent tries to find a school and the school is full, they need to help the parent find a solution, either by recommending other schools or speaking with the education authority. Parent First we tried to find an application form by going direct to the schools. We were trying alone to register the children, it was difficult but then we met Steve, he used to come to see our neighbour. Our neighbour introduced us. Steve helped us to get a place in school for our children. Parent I can't say that it was quick because we came here in January and my son started school in Aprilfrom January to April was not easy for my son. Parent The time that children spend out of education, waiting for a school place, can have damaging effects on the whole family. In our country, my brother and sister have only ever missed 2-3 days school. Here they stayed 3-4 months out of school. Every week I was going to the education authority. I was asking them to help and they always told me, Just wait. I had to work so I couldnt always be at home with them in the day. They were new to this country they didnt know anywhere. I bought books for them to try and keep them busy but they were very bored at home. Brother, sole carer for younger siblings

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Testimony I really was struggling to get him a school place. I want to tell you about it and how I feel. My son arrived in the UK 2 August 2009. I tried to find a place for him but I really struggled. I asked the education authority for help. They didnt really help. After this I tried going directly to the school but they asked me to bring a letter from the education authority. I went there to ask but they didnt give me this letter for a long time. I went to a number of places to ask for help. I went to Citizens Advice, RETAS and Advocacy Support. They helped me ask the education authority for the letter. The education authority just delayed. A friend of mine gave me the telephone number for Steve (Connexions PA with The Childrens Society LEAP Programme) Steve helped me a lot. The biggest thing is that my son has started school with the help of Steve. Steve called and spoke to the head of the school directly. Steve really assisted us in finding a place for my son. For me this was a terrible experience. It was really hard and upsetting. My son was staying at home. When I went to work, I had to leave him at home. Staying at home alone for five months without doing anything is a depressing thing. In the end the staff from Advocacy Support advised me to make a complaint about the time the education authority took to reply. A staff member from Advocacy Support called the education authority. They gave her quite a conflicting answer. They said they had already arranged for my son to start school in October. It was a very surprising thing. When I called to check they said the same thing as they always you must wait, you must wait. In the end he is in school but for five months this was very challenging. Parent

Learning Points ~ Some parents find the process of accessing a school place for their child difficult. Increased information and support offered to parents to help them access a school place could reduce the time that children spend missing education. Waiting a number of months for a school place can have a damaging effect on families.

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2.0 School Induction Twenty staff from eight high schools in Leeds were asked to identify what their induction for international new arrivals at the school involved. Total number of staff 19 19 18 17 16 16 12 10

Tour of the school for the pupil Information about the school day Assessment of pupils levels Pairing the pupil up with a buddy who can help Information about extra curricular activities Tour of the school with the pupil and parent Information about the UK curriculum Use of a professional interpreter

The school induction is a significant aspect of starting school. Parents tend to formulate their first impressions of the school at this point and relationships begin to form. The induction is crucial for the exchange of information. Parents were asked to describe their experience of the school induction. The first time I got the letter, I immediately took my children to the school. I met a teacher; she told me she we would arrange for the girls to start the week after because they need uniforms. So finally the induction, they said there are a lot of people from different countries who come here, so we are mixed citizens at the school, dont worry about anything; we will support your children. Especially the Jamaican lady at school, she gave us a lot of confidence to attend that school. They said if they have free time, a teacher would give additional language support to my daughters. So that was a very nice induction, I felt very happy at that time. Parent When my son started in year 9, they called a meeting for us all. We met with the head of year. We had a chance to look around the school, the classrooms; they gave us the timetable of the school. They showed us where to get the bus, meals, uniform. This was really helpful for me. Parent The school didnt tell me anything. I have never visited the school. My daughter came home and told me about the uniform. My daughter has given me all the information I have. I would really appreciate it if someone could come to visit me or call me. Disabled parent

2.1 Being shown around the school Some parents said that they were not invited to look around the school and that they would have liked this opportunity. Parents who were shown around the school said it was helpful. For my first child who started at high school I wasnt invited to look around. When my second child started at a different school I was invited to look around. Parent

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I took my brother to the school. Two staff came to meet us. I think one was the head of year. They told me lots of information. No they didnt show me around the school. I would take liked to have been shown around. Brother, sole carer for two younger siblings Yes they did show me around the school and this was helpful Parent Learning Points ~ The school induction is an important process for parents. Parents with access needs would like to be included in the induction process. Schools need to ensure that every new parent and child are invited to look around the school as part of their induction.

Case example of good practice. School induction. When a new pupil starts, I attend the initial meeting with them, their parent(s) and the head of year. The induction involves a tour of the school for both parent and child. We give information about the school day and school curriculum; this is available in other languages and in picture form. The child will be paired up with a peer mentor and be given information about extra curricular activities. In addition to the initial assessments in reading, writing, science and maths we will find out about the childs previous educational history. New children will be given a wordbook to record new vocabulary, and a bi-lingual dictionary to assist them in their learning. I complete a language plan for each pupil and send this out to each teacher so they are aware of the childs specific needs. We have adapted the student planner by adding extra pages that are pictorial, for example, an equipment list. We go through this with the parent during the induction. I run a drop-in at lunch time session where pupils can come and talk to me with any questions or difficulties. I contact the parent(s) after the first two weeks of the child starting to let them know how their child is settling in. I communicate with parents using the childs planner, phone calls and home visits. I build a positive relationship with parents and they know the can contact me if there is any problem.

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2.2 Information about the school curriculum Parents were asked whether they feel that they know enough about the education system and the school curriculum. Both parents and school staff felt that this is an area that could be strengthened. A lack in understanding of the key stage 5 curriculum can often cause difficulties, when trying to explain post 16 options and progression after sixth form. This is also due to language barrier and the difference in the UK curriculum. Head of Year I feel that the school could improve the way we engage parents through offering language support and giving more information about the education system. EAL Course Leader When I arrived I didn't have any idea about education in this country and how it works because its very different in my country. For example, I noticed in this country they look at the age to decide which class you should be in. Some things were not a problem for me to understand, for example, like the Sudanese system, after year 6 you go to high school. Parent It would be very helpful to have more information about how the education system works here. I didnt have a problem with the primary school. I had a real problem at high school. I didnt have any idea about how the system works, for example the different lessons and choices (GCSE). The choices of lessons are very different in my country. Parent Because we didnt know the system, he took so many subjects and he really felt the pressure. The school supported him so he could stay for one hour after school for extra support. We helped him as well. We paid for a private teacher for him. He is feeling under less pressure now. Parent Im not sure I have enough understanding of the curriculum and options. Parent The only information we have is from our kids. We haven't had any information from school. We would like more information. If they could talk to us about options that would be good. Parent I still don't understand enough about the curriculum of this country, I would like to know a lot more about that. If this could be given in a leaflet, like a pamphlet or if its possible for staff to explain the curriculum. This is very important. Parent

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Learning Point ~ The local education authority and schools could develop creative ways to communicate information about the UK school system and curriculum to parents. Some suggestions are: including information as part of ESOL classes, activities for parents as part of extended services, one off events for parents, and a DVD for parents.

2.3 Use of professional interpreters Ten staff at six high schools said that their school uses professional interpreters as part of the induction for international new arrivals. Some school staff felt that their school should have access to professional interpreters. Some participants described using other children in the school to interpret. Language barriers can often be a problem where possible we use other pupils or staff as interpreters Learning Mentor No we dont use professional interpreters but interpreters are available through other students in school if necessary EAL Course Leader We could improve by providing interpreters for parents BMI Link Worker This morning I went to the school. My daughter was sick; I went to explain the situation. They provided me with another child from the school to interpret for me. Parent None of the parents interviewed said they were offered or provided with an interpreter by the school. Most parents said that they would have preferred this option. Some parents took friends with them to help them communicate. Maybe it might have been my fault to not ask. But if I had an interpreter it would have been a lot easier for me to understand and express myself. Parent Everything was in English; my son has some English so he was doing the interpreting. They used simple language, they took into account that we were foreigners; I would prefer them to provide interpreters. Parent She spoke to me in English. I understood a little bit. Its good for me to practice my English, But I would have liked an interpreter so I could understand everything. They didnt ask me if I would like an interpreter but it would be good to have a choice. Parent Schools have to help those parents with less English. Language is very important and powerful. If you are not speaking English you do not have any power, so they have to approach the person politely to ask him if they require an interpreter, then they can get the most information from the parent. Parent

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I have asked for an interpreter before, but they told me they dont have any interpreters. Parent They called me then I went to the school. They talked to me in English, they didn't use an interpreter. The second time I went I brought my friend to help me understand. Parent If I needed to contact them I would go to the school. I would call my friend and ask him to go with me to help me communicate. Parent

Testimony There was a lady who spoke Urdu at the school, she is also my neighbour. She spoke to me in Urdu at the induction meeting. My language is Farsi, I understand very little Urdu. They said they were not able to arrange an interpreter for me. They were asking me about my personal circumstances, my asylum case and why my son is scared at times. I know they were asking to find out about the personality of my son. I didnt feel comfortable talking about all these things because I do not know my neighbour that well. Parent

Learning Points ~ Parents would like to be offered a professional interpreter when they attend meetings at school. This would enable effective two-way communication. The Childrens Society does not support the use of children and young people as interpreters. Best practice is to use a professionally trained and CRB checked interpreter. Schools to consider the position that parents are put in when a neighbour, friend, community member is used as an interpreter, and that this may make it difficult for parents to disclose important and sensitive information. Some schools do offer professional interpreters. A more consistent approach across schools citywide needs to be adopted.

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3.0 Experiences of communication 3.1 The perspective of school staff School staff were asked about their experience of communicating with and involving asylum seeking and refugee parents. Some staff identified difficulties communicating with and involving parents. We try at every opportunity to involve parents but language barriers can sometimes make communication difficult. EAL Support Worker Its very difficult to engage asylum seeking and refugee parents, language problems make mutual understanding limited. Head of Year School policies and procedures are very hard for asylum seeking and refugee parents to learn and understand. Attendance and Pastoral Support Manager A lot of parents are reluctant to come into school. Teacher

3.2 The perspective of parents Parents were asked how they felt about contacting the school. The main reason for parents contacting a school was to report an absence or discuss a problem. Some parents felt very confident about contacting the school; this was generally the case for parents who had a higher level of English. Other parents were less confident about contacting the school. One parent said that she had not contacted the school since her daughter started three years ago due to a lack of confidence to speak English. The problem is the language, communication, if they can try to use interpreters in school it will help more, it will help many parents to understand and get involved as well. If teachers would speak slowly, it will also help. Parent I would like to have a friendly conversation with the teachers and for them to be more friendly towards me. For example, today I went to collect my daughter from school. She hurt her back on the trampoline in PE. The receptionist was very unfriendly to me and didnt believe my daughter was in enough pain to go home. Her body language was very cold. Parent I dont feel comfortable contacting the school. Parent The problem is with my language. Some parents when we come, how can we be involved when we can't communicate? If the schools call the parents to school, they dont call an interpreter, you have to try understanding everything they are saying, even if you dont understand you just say yeah yeah yeah, if there is no interpreter you can not communicate with anyone. Its not easy. It would better if the school could use an interpreter. Face to face (interpreter) would be very good. Parent
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I have never phoned the school because I can't speak English. Its very difficult for me to communicate with the school. I would feel more comfortable if there was an interpreter. Parent

3.3 Positive experiences of communication As mentioned above, some parents felt confident contacting the school. Myself I am confident and my communication skills are strongbut if I didnt have English, and I couldn't challenge, any problem I had wouldnt be solved. Language is very powerful. Parent I am a very strong lady. Even though my language is very bad bad bad, I will try to say what ever I want to say, its up to others, if they want to correct me I will be very happy. Parent I feel ok contacting the school but it really depends on who I speak to. Some teachers understand me and I understand them, with others it is more difficult, sometimes I dont understand their accent. Parent Parent A described how she had developed a positive relationship with two school staff who she met during the initial induction. They contacted her on a regular basis to discuss how her son was settling in at school. Parent A said this helped her to feel confident to approach the staff to discuss any concerns. This is a really important time for my son, this is a very sensitive age and this is a time when he needs to learn and concentrate on studies. I am really concerned about his well being at this time. I can pick up the phone and talk about how I feel. I feel ok to do this with two teachers who I know well. Parent Other parents described how the approach of staff during the initial induction influenced how they felt about contacting the school in the future. I havent contacted the school before. I received a text from them. Because of the barrier with language its quite difficult for me to contact the school. It would be easier for me to go in person rather than calling. I have only been once. I expect everything will be fine. From the first time I went I saw a welcoming approach from the staff. Parent School staff varied in their accounts when asked to describe their experience of communicating with refugee and asylum seeking parents. Whilst some staff described the difficulties and saw language as a barrier to communication other staff were confident, did not see language as a barrier, and found creative ways to exchange information. I am confident to get around the language barrier. EAL Co-ordinator All information, for example information about parents evening events, is translated and forwarded to parents. Head of Year

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My communication is a physical activity where language can be expressed through motion. Teacher I feel confident to communicate with refugee/asylum seeking parents on a range of issues for example helping them to support their child, helping to sort out issues relating to housing, linking them into services such as GPs and translating letters. EAL Coordinator When parents come into reception I try to make them feel welcome, I always try and help and show empathy. School Receptionist I provide support for parents in making the right decisions for their children when they go onto further education. EAL Co-ordinator Learning Points ~ Parents vary in their confidence levels when it comes to contacting school. School staff vary in their confidence and ability to communicate with parents. It should be acknowledge that some parents do not feel confident about contacting school due to difficulties with language rather than disinterest. It is important not to assume a parent does or does not understand English. Best practice would be to ask parents to identify their needs and involve a professional interpreter when required. Schools should empower parents so that they feel confident about contacting schools. School staff can help by being confident in their abilities, providing a welcoming and friendly reception at the initial induction, and by being creative in how they communicate information. Examples could include, avoiding jargon, speaking clearly at a steady pace, being patient, having open and friendly body language, and using pictures and translation where appropriate.

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4.0 Involving parents Parents were asked about their experience of being involved in various aspects of their childs school life. Parents identified key areas of school life that they would like to be more involved in. 4.1 Addressing issues of bullying Over half of the parents interviewed said that their child had experienced bullying. Two parents described moving their child to a new school due to bullying, and one parent said she was considering moving her two daughters due to serious incidents of physical and verbal bullying. Parents were asked whether they felt the school involved them when incidents of bullying were being addressed. Yes my son experienced a lot of bullying before he moved to his present school the school tried to resolve it, sometimes they moved people around school. They didnt involve me, they handled it themselves I would have preferred a meeting with other parents and staff all-together. Parent At my daughters old school when she was being bullied, they didn't involve me Parent No, I dont feel confident to contact the school anymore. In the past I asked the head teacher to talk about the problems my daughters have had with bullying but they wont give me an appointment. They told me the head was too busy. Parent Now its very serious because every time other children are disturbing my daughter. If she goes to reception and tells them, they say no its you who started, every time its you. Now she doesnt feel comfortable, last week was the same thing; she was in danger. I didnt know what to do. Parent My daughter has been bullied a lot since we arrived two and a half years ago. The school have dealt with it. They have never contacted me about it. If the school can contact me and speak with me I would really appreciate it. Parent Learning Points ~ Parents would like to be kept informed at every stage when incidents of bullying are being addressed. Where an incident of bulling arises, parents would like to be invited for a meeting, to have their voices heard.

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4.2 Giving feedback on progress, parents evenings and school reports Parents highlighted that they would like more information about how their child is progressing at school. This was especially the case in the first month of their child starting at school. Since my first meeting (when they started a month ago) I haven't had any contact with the school. It would be good to know their progress and hear this from the school. Parent Involving us so we know about the progress of our children is the most helpful. Parent I would like more information. I want to know about his daily progress, his social interaction with the other students, how he is doing in his subjects and his behaviour. Parent Some parents identified difficulties in knowing their childs progress. I would like to know if the behaviour of my children in school is good. I get the school reports but they are quite difficult for me to understand. Parent Yes they invite me to parents evening. I havent been because its very far. But its not only because of that, many other people speak so fast, I dont understand, so its better for me to stay at home. Parent It will be very good if they could use interpreters at parents evening because there are so many things I want to talk about. Parent Testimony I would like to go to my daughters school. I would love to meet and speak to the teachers. I would like to go parents evening. Ive never been to my daughters school. I can't travel on public transport because of my disability. I personally think they should try to come and visit me. My daughter tells me a lot but I would like to hear directly from the teachers. If they cant visit or call me, even a letter would be useful. I can ask someone to help me translate it. It doesn't matter how they give me the information, it is just really important for me to know how she is doing, her progress, her behaviour. Disabled parent

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Parents who attended parents evening at the school found this a positive experience. I shared different experience when we meet there, because I talked to different parents about our children. I learnt a lot from talking to different parents and I enjoyed it. Parent You meet every teacher from subjects and talk to them for seven minutes. They talk about the development of young child in that subject. Whether he needs more assistance or more support. They make us aware of where we should support our kids more. This is important so I know the level of my child and it helps me to know whether the school is good or not. It also helps me to know if my child is struggling then I can encourage them. Parent It was good because students maybe dont tell you how they are getting on in school. This way you get the information directly from the tutors. They show me his grades and tell me how he is getting on. This was very helpful. Brother, sole carer for two younger siblings They are so welcoming, when ever we meet the staff they tell us about the progress and behaviour of our children, it is very helpful. Parent Parents evening is valuable because you get to have a one to one discussion with people who spend a lot of time with your children. I also felt listened to, I was able to explain my son is having difficulties with X and as a result they introduced an individual learning plan. Since then he has really improved. Parent Case example of good practice. Informing parents of progress Sometimes they send a post card to say he is doing really well and congratulate him. Can you imagine how that feels? That makes me feel so proud! I go out and buy him a gift! Brother, sole carer for two younger siblings For my daughter (who attends the Specialist Inclusive Learning Centre) the school provides a book, the teachers write comments daily for the parents. If anything happens in school that they need us to be aware of, they write it down. There is also a space for parents to write. This is very useful. Parent

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Learning Points ~ One EAL co-ordinator visited or telephoned parent(s) after two weeks of a child starting school to update them on progress made. One parent described this as extremely helpful and reassuring. Parents said that the use of interpreters at opening evening would encourage them to attend. Families often have specific reasons why they are unable to attend parents evening. Asylum law and policy means that the Home Office often moves families around. Families can be moved to a different part of the city increasing the distance they must travel to parents evening at school.

Since arriving in Leeds in 2008 we have been moved four times. There is no consideration for my children, their well being, how they have settled into school, the relationships they have developed, this has been very disruptive to their education. Parent Some parents need to care for younger children this can make travelling to the school difficult and expensive. Disabled parents might not be able to travel to the school independently. Schools need to consider how they can include disabled parents. Schools should make every effort to ensure that they are inclusive in communicating childrens progress to parents. This could involve phone calls, home visits, and the use of interpreters and translation.

4.3 Involving parents in school-based activities Both parents and school staff support the idea of increasing parental involvement through school-based activities. Suggestions included ESOL (English for speakers of other languages) classes, refugee and international week, and coffee mornings. Two thirds of parents interviewed said they thought the provision of ESOL classes at their childs school was a good idea. ESOL classes for parents in high school would be good. I am experiencing this a primary school but not high school. If I didnt have children at primary school I wouldnt have got this chance. Parent ESOL classes would be very good until you manage the language, if they can teach us this would be very helpful, then we can understand all the activities of the school. Parent

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I would like to be involved in ESOL, its important to be involved in schools to share ideas with the schools, and schools share ideas with the parents. This is important for the school and the students as well. After school would be good. Parent ESOL classes at school would be very good. There is one lady who comes here once a week (from a refugee community organisation) and she helps me a lot with my English. I cant go to college because of my son (aged 2). I believe ESOL classes would really help me and then I can help my son. It will be much better in the long run. Parent School staff also supported the idea of running ESOL at their school. Some had experience of running ESOL programmes at other high schools and said that they were a great success. I feel our school could improve by involving parents in after school language sessions. Here we could also offer assistance in understanding paperwork. Teacher I feel we could offer extra classes for parents to help with language, development, shopping, DIY skills. Head of Year I have organised ESOL for parents in the school I used to work at, it was a great success. I am trying to get it set up at my current school. Teachers are trained and willing we just need approval to cover the costs. EAL Coordinator We will be offering ESOL classes later in the year. All asylum seeking and refugee parents will be invited to attend. EAL Coordinator One EAL co-ordinator described involving a parent in an awareness raising activity for refugee week. Parents were asked what they thought about being involved in international or refugee week at the school. Around half of the parents interviewed thought this was a good idea. I would like to be involved in sports or cultural events. I think many parents would be good at this. And also refugee week, if they invite us to take part in this would be fine. Parent I think if I was invited to be involved in international week or refugee week I would be happy. This is a very good idea. Parent If parents could be involved in international week this would be brilliant! Parent Its a good idea to get parents and carers more involved in the school, for example being involved in international week. It is good to learn about the different cultures of the society. We hear this on the news but in reality things can be different. We see different people from different cultures but we dont always know anything about their culture. Brother, sole carer for two younger siblings

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Being involved in activities at school is good for many reasons, firstly you will have a good parent and teacher relationship, secondly you can meet other families and third you learn more about the school. Parent Case example of good practice. Involving parents in school-based activities Every Tuesday, once a month there is a parents meeting. All the parents sit together and we have coffee. The staff and children are involved too. The staff give us an update about the childrens levels, whether they are improving or not, basically their development. My husband attends every week. It is very good Parent

4.4 Activities to increase knowledge of the UK education system School-based activities could be a way of giving parents information about the UK education system, for example, the curriculum, GCSE options, exams, course-work, and the grading system used in school reports. Alternatively, one parent suggested a one off event to learn this information. This could be embedded into the schools extended services and community cohesion work plans. I am sure the education authority don't have the capacity to go to peoples houses to advise, help or support every family. Maybe if its possible, they can arrange an event to make awareness for the parents. This would really help because there are a lot of parents living in Leeds who dont understand enough about schools. If they have enough money or a qualified person to organise an event, this would be very good. Parent I feel our school could improve the way we engage asylum seeking and refugee parents, for example offering parent classes/qualifications. This would improve parents understanding of our school and the way it works e.g. the curriculum. Head of Year

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Learning Points ~ Offering ESOL classes for parents in school can have a number of advantages; it empowers parents by developing their language skills and confidence, which in turn can have positive outcomes for children, and it helps develop positive relationships between parents and school staff. By involving parents in school-based activities such as ESOL classes, coffee mornings and international week parents feel more involved in the wider school community. This is conducive to community cohesion. School based events and activities can be used as a space for parents to learn about the wider school curriculum. Parents have expressed that this is very important for them so they can guide and support their children effectively.

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5.0 Understanding the specific needs of asylum seekers and refugees 5.1 Awareness of need Whilst forced migrants are not a homogeneous group, immigration legislation and policy in the UK can result in asylum seeking and refugee communities experiencing disadvantage in various aspects of their lives. These experiences can have an impact on childrens ability to settle and achieve in their school. It is important that school staff have an understanding of the specific needs of this group, and that parents feel confident to communicate with schools about issues that could impact on their child general well being, if they choose to do so. School staffs were asked how they would identify pupils from asylum seeking and refugee backgrounds. School staff were asked to identify the specific needs pupils from asylum seeking/refugee backgrounds could have, and factors that could impact on the childrens inclusion and attainment in school. Awareness levels were generally high amongst staff who participated in this research. For example every staff member knew at least one way of identifying whether a child was from an asylum seeking or refugee background. School staff were aware that the following factors could impact on asylum seeking and refugee pupils inclusion and attainment in school Limited English No formal educational history Cultural barriers Racial bullying Poor housing Poor mental health Stress and anxiety associated with the asylum process Caring responsibilities Being here unaccompanied Poverty Fear of detention Fear of deportation

Emotional well being can often make it difficult for children to engage Learning Mentor During the qualitative interviews, some parents described experiences that influenced their childs general well being. He loves school, the problem is he cannot sleep properly during the night and this impacts on the quality of his work at school. Sometimes he holds onto his ears or his head. He always feels dizzy. Thats why he cannot concentrate. Parent My childrens experiences have affected them. Being separated from me for so long has had a big impact. Parent

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My son has just heard that his father got refugee status (abroad) its not possible for us to go there and join him at the moment, the situation is still very unclear. My son has responded by saying he will refuse to go to school. Parent When we arrived here, we had to stay in a temporary house in Beeston. The house was in such a bad state, insects, very cold, and there was nothing in the house. We contacted the housing provider. We told them about the problems, especially the insects because it was affecting out skin, we were getting bitten. Parent Case example of good practice. Communicating with teachers I'm very much concerned about my son and the way he is behaving at the moment, his attendance is quite poor. My son cant go regularly to school, he has illnesses because of past experiences. There are two teachers, two ladies, they are fully aware of how my son is doing at school and of his personal issues. They call me on the telephone. I have a good relationship with these two teachers. I can call these teachers to talk about how I feel and this is good. Since I came here my main problem is my language barrier. But I still try and make an effort, its difficult but I still try to convey the message in any way I can. Parent

5.2 Areas to strengthen, the perspective of school staff A significant number of school staff said that they would welcome training to increase their awareness of issues relating to asylum seeking and refugee communities. Some staff felt that they had a good understanding however they believed that general awareness amongst colleagues needs to be raised. One staff member made reference to a lack of time and resources. All staff should be made aware of the issues faced by asylum seekers to enable staff to identify students and needs. Head of Year Some teachers do not understand what home life can be like for these kids. I remember a time when a teacher went barmy when a kid didnt bring their food ingredients for food technology. Ive spoken with the teachers now and this is no longer a problem. We can help provide the ingredients if we need to. EAL Coordinator Some staff in the school do not understand the issues, Ive even heard staff in the inclusion department saying they come here and work the system to their advantage there is some deeply ingrained discrimination amongst some staff. EAL Coordinator I think most of us are aware of the problems and requirements but we struggle with the time allocation and lack of resources. EAL Coordinator
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We need more staff and resources. We also need a clear pathway flowchart of where to turn to for help with 70-80 different cultural backgrounds. Attendance and Pastoral Support Manager Learning Points ~ School staff involved in the research did have an awareness of the specific needs and experiences of refugee and asylum seekers, and how these impact on childrens general well being. School staff felt that there needed to be more awareness amongst colleagues. Effective communication between school staff and parents can enable positive and trusting relationships to be developed, and crucial information to be exchanged. Where effective communication and relationships were developed, parents were more likely to feel confident about contacting the school and discussing issues. This resulted in an appropriate level of support being offered and positive outcomes for children.

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6.0 Conclusion and recommendations This study has captured the experiences of communication between refugee and asylum seeking parents and high school staff in Leeds. It has identified areas of good practice, highlighted key learning points and suggested areas that could be strengthened. It has given an opportunity for parents to talk about the ways they are involved in school processes and suggest other ways that would be useful for them. The following recommendations are based on what parents and school staff have expressed in this study. By implementing, these recommendations, the outcomes for refugee and asylum seeking children and their families will be improved in the future. Recommendations 1. Information: Parents need more information about the UK education system and how to access a school place when they first arrive. The local education authority Welcome to Leeds information leaflet could be printed as a hard copy in other languages and disseminated widely through a variety of agencies. 2. Support: Improved levels of support would help newly arrived parents to access a school place for their child, reducing the time that children remain out of education. Support could be provided through increasing the capacity of the local education authority admissions team, and through voluntary agencies such, as The Childrens Society LEAP Programme. 3. Induction: It will be helpful if all school inductions involve a tour of the school for both the child and the parent(s). 4. Access: Schools should consider ways to involve disabled parents in educational processes. Suggestions include; supporting parents with transport arrangements, home visits, telephone calls and translating documents. 5. Use of interpreters: Best practice is to use a professionally trained and CRB checked interpreter so that other children do not need to be relied upon to interpret for parents. While some schools offer professional interpreters, a more consistent approach across schools citywide needs to be adopted. 6. English as an additional language: It is important not to assume a parent does or does not understand English. Best practice would be to ask parents to identify their needs and involve a professional interpreter when required. If this is not possible, school staff can help by being confident in their abilities, providing a welcoming and friendly reception at the initial induction, and by being creative in how they communicate information. Examples of this include, avoiding jargon, speaking clearly and at a steady pace, being patient, and having open and friendly body language, using pictures and translation where appropriate.
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7. Inclusion: Communication to parents regarding their childs educational attainment is strengthened where creative and inclusive methods are used. Examples of existing good practice include: telephone calls and home visits after the first two weeks of a child starting school, school-based celebration events following the two-week induction programme, and well done postcards sent from school to the home. Further suggestions include the use of interpreters at parents evening and support to understand the school report system. 8. The UK education system: Schools need to further explore programmes to increase parents knowledge and understanding of the UK education system. Information about the school curriculum, GCSE options and assessment methods could be provided as part of the school induction, at one-off events for parents, through activities as part of extended schools, in a Welcome DVD, or built into ESOL classes. 9. Engagement: Schools could develop ways to strengthen their engagement with refugee and asylum-seeking parents through involving them in school-based activities. Examples include offering ESOL and IT classes, coffee mornings, promoting parent governor opportunities, and involving parents in planning and delivery of activities relating to international or refugee week. Such activities would empower parents, enhance mutual understanding, and strengthen community cohesion. 10. Training: Offering staff training on the specific experiences and needs of asylum seekers and refugees to all staff would contribute to their professional development as well as their relationships with individual families. An alternative to training as part of an inset day would be self-guided learning using resources available from organisations such as The Childrens Society and The Refugee Council.

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7.0 References and further information Desforges, C and Abouchaar, A. (2003) The Impact of Parental Involvement, parental support and family education on pupil achievements and adjustment: A Literature Review, Department for Education and Skills Doyle, L and McCorriston, M. (2008) Beyond School Gates: Supporting refugees and asylum seekers in secondary school. The Refugee Council Every Child Matters, 2003 Franks, M (2006) Count Us In. The Childrens Society Research Unit Harris, A and Goodhall, J. (2007) Engaging Parents in Raising Achievement: Do Parents Know They Matter? DCSF Research report The Education Act 2002 The Education and Inspections Act 2006 The Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000

Where can I get more information and ideas? www.childrensociety.org.uk www.refugeetoolkit.org.uk www.childrenslegalcentre.com/ www.icar.org.uk/ www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/ www.smileproject.org.uk/ www.sharedfutures.org.uk www.refugeeweek.org.uk/ http://www.refugeeyouth.org/ http://www.unhcr.org.uk/

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Further information
For any queries regarding this report, please contact: The Childrens Society LEAP Programme Lower Ground Floor Cubic Business Centre 533 Stanningley Road Leeds LS13 4EN Tel: 0113 236 3900 Email: lpl@childrenssociety.org.uk Web: www.childrenssociety.org.uk The views expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect those of The Childrens Society

Charity Registration No. 221124 | Photographs modelled for The Childrens Society | Pierre-Franois Didek