The Oslo standard for school-home partnership has created common guidelines for all Oslo schools for cooperation between school and home. The aim of the standard is to create mutual confidence by clearly clarify what parents can expect from the school and what the school expects from parents.
On 23 January 2014, I spoke with Mary Ryan, Chairperson of the Immigrant Parents and Guardians Support Association (IPGSA) in Ireland, in order for her to tell me more about the organisation itself and the work it does in the field of education.
SIRIUS: Why was IPGSA set up?
In the past, I was teaching in a school in Dublin 15, where there is a high concentration of immigrants in general. My job was to run a department within the school to support English as an additional language. I realised that there were a lot of resources in place for immigrant children, but no support for immigrant parents. Any support there was came through individual teacher initiatives. In time, I got to know the parents with an immigrant background and the frustrations and challenges that they faced due to their lack of knowledge of the Irish school system.
Therefore, about three years ago, I organised ‘Pathways to Parental Involvement’, a 9 week course of 1-2 hour sessions on different aspects of the Irish educational system. From a group of 25 odd parents attending, 16 finished the course. This project was supported by a grant from Fingal County Council, which allowed us to invite professionally trained teachers to give the information sessions.
Following on from this, together with six of the immigrant parents who attended, we decided to set up the IPGSA to further develop the involvement of immigrant parents in the Irish education system. This would empower them to play an active role in their children’s schooling and ensure that there is equity in the provision of their children’s needs within classrooms and schools. Seeing as we are all volunteers, and due to the demands of daily life, there are only four of us now, and it is hard to continue without financial support.
SIRIUS: How does IPGSA support inclusive education more concretely?
Until now, we have organised a number of information evenings for parents on the Irish education system. One of the meetings, held in a local primary school here in Dublin 15, had four professionals giving talks on pre-primary, primary, post-primary and third level education to immigrant parents.
Just last week, we organised an information evening on the Central Applications Office, the system that enables students to apply to third level education. The information given was aimed at migrant parents, parents with disabled children and for families who are financially challenged. Additional information can be found in the Hear and Dare information document, which gives information to final year students in secondary school and their parents. This has been translated into 17 different languages, and we would be really happy to see others around the country using this information to inform anyone who is interested. This would hopefully extend the reach of our information campaign, as at present, and despite the work that went into organising the event, only 12 people attended last week’s event.
We have also given classes on non-curricular exams such as mother tongue exams. Schools must offer EU nationals the chance to do mother tongue exams, but there are also a number of other language options available. Furthermore, we give parents details about necessary attendance or exemption of Irish language classes.
Within my school, we also created the BEATA project which offers an equality audit of schools. The project aims to audit schools to see how reflective they are of the population of the school. We basically request a list of mother tongue languages represented in the schools, then look at visible icons around the school (pictures, photos, maps etc.) and categorise them. For example, are school awards representative of immigrant students? Are all the languages in the school clearly visible so that the school is instantly recognisable as a plurilingual school? We invite schools in Dublin 15 to partake in this project and have carried out three audits so far. We would be very happy to share this information with others, and consider it very important as highlights the importance of intercultural education within the school and positively emphasises the cultural and linguistic heritage of pupils and staff.
SIRIUS: What challenges do you currently face?
This organisation is run on a volunteer basis. We are not registered as a charity, thus cannot apply for funding in this manner. Obviously, with no financial support and our other commitments, it is hard to dedicate as much time to the organisation as we would like. We work closely with the County Dublin Vocational Education Committee and Fingal County Council and have worked with The Integration Centre of Ireland in the past, but ideally, we would get funding for one of our members to work for IPGSA part-time, and develop the outreach of the organisation in a more regular manner.
Furthermore, we have found that migrant parents want to be treated in the same way as Irish parents, therefore don’t want to come to separate events especially for them. Yet they need certain types of information that local parents don’t need. It is hard to effectively combine both their wishes and their needs.
SIRIUS: How can IPGSA support inclusive education in Ireland in the future?
We have transferable information on many aspects of the Irish education system in a number of languages. We hope that this information would be shared and appropriated by others throughout Ireland in order to inform migrant parents beyond the Dublin 15 area.
We would be interested in joining the National Parents Council of Ireland as we could raise awareness of the challenges that immigrant parents face and the wealth of knowledge they have to offer, but this has not been followed-up so far.
We also support the development of real religious education classes that are not linked to any particular denomination. Immigrant parents could be included in this teaching process and thus become more closely linked with the school curriculum. However, at present, we have no plans to develop this idea.
Place: European Network against Racism, 60 rue Gallait, 3rd floor, Brussels
Time: 11:30 – 13:30, followed by lunch
The SIRIUS Network organised a Thematic Workshop on “Segregation and Integration in Education” in The Hague in October. This workshop looked at the effects of high concentrations of immigrant pupils in schools with many socially disadvantaged pupils. School systems have difficulty to deliver adequate resources, teachers and school leadership in these schools. Parents of native pupils are more likely than immigrant parents to move their children to other schools through parental choice systems, leading to what’s known as ‘white flight.’
Migration Policy Group wishes to discuss the outcomes of the Workshop with European stakeholders working in the field of migration and education, with the objective of developing practical and policy recommendations for schools and governments.
Place: France Room of Thon Hotel EU, Rue de la Loi/Wetstraat 75, B-1040 Brussels
Time: 12:00 – 18:00
The whole of Europe and the European Parents Association (EPA) itself are facing major challenges these days. The decision makers of the EU are in the final stages of creating a budget to carry out the EU2020 strategy. Understanding the importance of education, it became one of the five major areas of EU2020. The two main targets in education are reducing early school leaving rates to below 10% and increasing the ratio of young people finishing tertiary education to 40%. Another major strategy area is to reach a dramatic decrease in the number of people living in poverty or social exclusion. The role of parents and the importance of involving all parents in education cannot be questioned in reaching these goals.
It has been a challenge for parental associations all over Europe to involve more parents in their day-to-day activities, especially those less advantaged to offer them peer learning activities for a greater success of their children in life.
In the past years EPA became a well-established partner in policy discussions on EU-level. A strong relationship has been built with EU-institutions as well as other European NGOs.
The United Nations are celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the International Year of the Family and on this occasion they have published a declaration asking UN member states to recognise and support families. As a follow-up to the European Year of Citizens, in line with the anniversary, there is a proposal for the EU to declare 2014 the European Year of Family and Work Reconciliation. Regardless the success of this initiative 2014 should be a year when the whole of Europe focuses on families and parents in one way or another.
The beginning of the new policy period of the EU, the upcoming European Parliamentary elections and the emphasis on families next year provides EPA a perfect opportunity to meet European partners as well as to talk about the main internal challenges ahead.
The conference is held in English. No simultaneous translation will be organised.
12:00 – Lunch
13:00 – Opening and welcome words: Mrs. Edit Herczog MEP PES, Dr. Renate Heinisch, EESC
13:45 – Key note presentation. Parenting Support in Europe: Daniel Molinuevo, Eurofund
Round table 1 – European Platforms and Initiatives for EU2020
- Audrey Frith, EUCIS-LLL – the European Life-Long Learning Platform
- Stijn Hoorens, EPIC, the European Platform for Investing in Children
- Ana Gorey, MEET – ECI on a High Quality European Education for All
- Kathy Kikis-Papadakis, European Policy Network on School Leadership
- Sarah Cooke O’Dowd, SIRIUS Network on the education of children and young people with a migrant background
- Daniel Kropf, Learning for Well-Being
15:20 – Coffee break
15:50 – Round table 2 – European NGO’s for EU2020
- Agnes Uhereczky, COFACE
- Andrea Witt, Eurochild
- Blandine Smilansky, Euroclio
- Ida Kreutzman, OBESSU
- Marie-france Mailhos, AEDE
- Chris Harrison, ESHA