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Asians tap into learning with mother

A dozen mothers are going back to school in inner-city Birmingham - so that they can help raise literacy among their children.

The mothers, many of them from Asian backgrounds, spend two hours learning about letter-writing, colour recognition, phonics and story-telling at Benson School.

The project was launched at the start of January by staff from Matthew Boulton College. The lecturers believe the scheme will work as they have already run two similar schemes in the city.

They found many parents from ethnic-minority backgrounds lacked the confidence to go to college for language or literacy support but badly need it to help their own children with schoolwork.

So the college went to schools to give classes in an informal environment where its staff break down barriers and build confidence, helping parents develop literacy skills.

Lynda Jayne Price, family literacy co-ordinator, said the course helped parents from both English-speaking and second-language backgrounds and could help to raise levels of achievement and understanding among pupils.

She said: "We find it hard to get parents to commit themselves to a course of study so we offered them a 10-week unit.

"The headteachers at the three schools currently involved in the scheme are very committed to it. They have organised cr ches to overcome any social or economic difficulties parents may have."

She added: "The course is run at a basic skills level but the college can offer English for Speakers of Other Languages support to parents if it is appropriate. It is aimed at parents who recognise they have a language and literacy problem and cannot fully support their child.

"Those taking part in this scheme can build up a portfolio which is sent away for accreditation by the national open college network."

Benson School is based in Handsworth, an area of social deprivation, and 85 per cent of the 374 pupils aged between three and 11 have English as a second language.

Headteacher David Evans said: "It was not an easy thing to get off the ground in the beginning but we were delighted when Matthew Boulton College responded positively and saw its potential.

"This particular course is in its infancy here but the plan is for parents to work on adapting stories, devising literacy games, and build upon their rich cultural heritage.

"Many of our parents are great story-tellers and we are trying to get them to put their heritage into pictures and books and persuade the mums to become trainers for other parents in the school.

"We would like to use them as skilful story-tellers and involve them in the mainstream to work with other children, not just their own families."

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