parents with their child

This research investigated ways in which education professionals might better harness the power of parental engagement in support of EAL children’s learning. The study was conducted in the London Borough of Ealing, home to the highest number of Poles, Somalis, Afghans and Serbians in the country and the second highest number of Japanese. National Insurance registrations consistently show Ealing to have a higher level of international migration than London overall.

There are 150 different languages spoken in Ealing schools. Currently Somali is the most frequently spoken language after English, after which the most common are Panjabi, Polish, Urdu, Arabic and Tamil.

The education and linguistics research community generally accept that parental involvement is crucial in supporting children’s learning and there is a rich body of literature to support this view. However, evaluation of interventions to support parental involvement demonstrates that it is increasingly difficult to scientifically assess the extent of the success of such projects since the range of variables are difficult if not impossible to control.

The purpose of this small-scale study therefore was to listen to the voices of parents themselves and learn from them: to identify the barriers to helping children learn effectively, and use that information to develop strategies, policies, materials and practices to offer effective partnership and support.

Seventy-three parents in three separate research locations – two primary schools and an ESOL community literacy project – engaged with the principal investigator (PI), 53 of whom completed written submissions. Questionnaires investigated a range of topics around parental involvement; subsequent buzz groups and practical activities explored issues relating to education in the country of origin and fears and hopes for their children. It was found that the perceived disinclination of some minority parents to become actively involved in their children’s education was the result of a lack of understanding and knowledge of the curriculum, teaching methods and school policies. Furthermore, many expressed a profound lack of belief in their own communicative competence when dealing with professionals.

Recommendations for policies to address these issues include:

  • more language support for parents 
  • commitment by schools to enhance communication with parents by operating a ‘language aware’ policy for all staff 
  • publications for parents in plain English, jargon free, with helpful illustration of e.g. uniform items/games kit/school meals and so on 
  • homework clubs including parents, with guidance from teachers about how and in what ways they could support their children’s learning activities
  • constant revision and development of EAL curriculum 
  • clear explanations of dominant methodological and child development theories including attitudes to reward and punishment, customised to the local demographic. 

To download the full research report please follow the link below.

PDF EAL Nexus research on parental engagement (560.64 KB)