Encouraging ethnic parents

28th April 2000 at 01:00
ON monitoring attendance of parents at meetings at Hillhead High School, I discovered that the Chinese were the least likely group to attend - about 10 per cent compared with an average of around 40 per cent from the indigenous white community and 30 per cent from other ethnic groups.

These statistics are probably reasonably typical for most Scottish comprehensive schools and suggest that at least half of all parents of secondary-age children do not attend parent meetings and have little or no direct contact with teachers.

The reasons for Chinese non-

attendance became clearer after a meeting with Dorothy Neoh of the San Jai Project, a community based initiative in the Garnetshill area of Glasgow, where much of the Chinese community lives. Non-attendance was not due to lack of interest or apathy but for practical reasons relating to work commitments in restaurants and takeaways and to other more complex reasons relating to language and culture.

We decided to arrange a meeting jointly at the school and set the date five weeks away for a Monday - this being a holiday for most restaurateurs. All the Chinese parents, around 40, were invited. Assistance fromthe San Jai Project employees was requested, which meant that communication, oral and written, would be in two languages.

The turnout was excellent - around 30 of the parents attended. The atmosphere was informal and friendly. Topics discussed included the Higher Still programe, internal and external assessment arrangements for SQA qualifications, homework policy and subject choice at S2. There was input from community education and the careers service.

It was noticed that the parents were much more willing to express opinions and ask questions than they would have

been in a more mixed setting. Being part of a large group from similar backgrounds as well as having Chinese professionals in attendance rendered a greater sense of empowerment and self-confidence.

The exercise highlighted the importance of careful planning and consultation with appropriate personnel and external agencies to create an environment in which parents felt comfortable. It also illustrated in a small way how a co-ordinated approach among service providers is often essential in planning effective provision in education.

S Bhopal

Hillhead High School


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