Professor Louise Ryan is Co-Director of the Social Policy Research Centre (SPRC), which is launching a new toolkit to help practitioners and migrant families in settling foreign children in British schools.
The numbers of migrant families arriving in Britain is increasing. There has been much discussion in the media and in political circles about how schools and teachers respond to the needs of migrant children. Research conducted by the Social Policy Research Centre at Middlesex over many years has shown that there is often a mismatch in expectations and understanding between schools and migrant families (Sales, et al, 2010; D’Angelo and Ryan, 2011; Ryan and Sales, 2013).
Migrant families often struggle to understand and navigate the English educational system. The school system in the UK differs in many ways from that in other countries. In the UK schooling starts earlier than elsewhere – generally before the child’s fifth birthday. Many parents and children, especially if they have only just arrived in Britain, are unprepared for this. Choosing a school and getting your child enrolled can be complicated, especially if you are unfamiliar with the system.
With funding from the School of Law’s Impact Fund, we have designed a toolkit that aims to provide a user-friendly, comprehensive online resource for use by schools, local authorities and community organisations to help explain the rules and regulations in an accessible manner. It is hoped the toolkit will be widely used as a valuable resource to schools and will save teachers precious time. For parents, the booklet provides information and guidance to help them negotiate the school system and suggests ways in which they can support their children in settling into school, progressing through primary school and making the transition to secondary school.
Responding to changes
The toolkit is a new, updated and revised version of a guide we previously produced in 2010. Various policies and practices within the UK education have changed since then and, since that guide proved to be popular among parents and practitioners, there was a need to update the information and improve the visual aspect of the booklet.
A particularly important change during the intervening period has been an increase in the different types of school and consequently, different internal regulations, admission criteria and general structure of learning and curriculum within those schools. Today, children have to stay in education until 18, not 16, as was the case until 2013. Assessment criteria and style have changed considerably since 2010. Also, the structure of schooling varies considerably between local authorities and parents need to check this information with their local schools and local authority (the elected body responsible for education at local level e.g. borough, district or county council).
All these changes convinced us that the toolkit needed updating in order to continue to be a reliable source of information for newly arrived migrant parents.
‘A toolkit for migrant parents and practitioners‘ by Magdalena Lopez Rodriguez, Alessio D’Angelo, Louise Ryan and Rosemary Sales of the Social Policy Research Centre will be formally launched on 10 June 2016 at Hendon Town Hall, London.