Schools in the UK want to involve parents in school life and will try to share information and include families who speak little English. Schools here believe education involves the parents (or carers) and the school working together to help children learn.
How do I find out more information about my child’s school?
When your child starts school, school staff will help them settle in and support them to make friends and join in lessons and other activities. Parents can also support their children to feel happy and part of the school by understanding how the school works. (See School life for more information)
For example you will need to:
- provide school uniform and PE kit
- support good attendance and behaviour
- make sure your child does their homework
- attend parents meetings and school events.
What equipment do I need to buy for my child?
To make a good start, you need to buy some school equipment such as pens and pencils. It is a good idea to ask the school what you need to buy when you attend the admission interview.
Most secondary schools and some primary school require children to follow a dress code or wear a uniform. This includes a PE kit (clothes for sports). You may have to buy the uniform from a special shop or directly from the school. Ask the school if you need help with payment as grants may be available.
Will I have to pay for school meals?
School meals are free for some children (such as Key Stage 1 in England) and will consist of a midday meal of healthy food. Special dietary needs are catered for. Families who receive benefits can claim free school meals for older children. Please ask the school for an application form if you think you are eligible. Families are welcome to supply a healthy packed lunch for children to eat instead of the school dinner.
Can my child take time off school for religious holidays and visits to relatives?
Your child must attend school regularly and all schools ask parents to contact the school when their child is absent. You may need to send a letter giving the reason for absence when your child returns to school. Illness and medical appointments are ‘authorised absences’.
Your child can take a day off school for religious holidays, but other reasons such as family visits are ‘unauthorised absences’. Extended visits to another country must be taken during school holidays.
If your child has to miss school because of an emergency, please tell the head teacher as soon as possible. If you would like to know more about attendance, please ask at the school office or check the school’s website.
How can I become more involved with school life?
Schools want to build good relationships with parents and want parents to be involved in school life by:
- attending parents’ meetings or consultations
- joining celebrations, concerts and assemblies
- volunteering to help in school
- becoming part of the parent fundraising association.
Although you may lack confidence in speaking English at first, please do not worry. The first step is to accept friendly approaches from other parents and school staff. There may also be school staff who speak your language and can interpret for you.
Try and develop good communication from home to school and from school to home. Talk to your child’s teacher in the playground after school and share your hopes and dreams for your child as well as any worries.
It can be more difficult for parents of older children to stay in contact with teachers. Secondary schools often give pupils a diary to record their homework. There will be space for teachers and parents to write notes to ask questions or raise concerns. Nowadays many schools use email or texts to share information with parents. Ask for the parent password.
If your child is unhappy or is being bullied you need to tell the school so that staff can take action to keep your child safe and happy. (See also Your child’s rights). If you want to share any personal or confidential information with the school and prefer to use your own language, please ask for an official interpreter.
Sometimes you will be too busy to make face-to-face contact with teachers, but you can still find out what is happening in school in other ways. School websites are full of information and you can translate pages into your first language with ‘Google Translate’. You will usually find links to other websites that can help your child’s learning such as BBC Bitesize
When you collect your children from school you could look at classroom displays and find out what topics they are doing. There may be a notice board which tells you about after-school clubs for children, for example football, music or language clubs. Sometime there is a before-school breakfast club.
How will the school contact me?
Schools usually communicate with parents by letter, email or text. Please make sure the school has your contact details so that they can find you quickly in an emergency. If you cannot understand the information, ask for a translation or an interpreter. Schools want to find out how to improve access and equality for all parents. If you would like to contribute to the decision-making processes of the school please enquire about becoming a school governor.
Where else can I go to support my child’s education?
The local library is a good place to look for learning in the community. Library membership of the library is free, but you will need to take proof of your name and address on an official document. In the library you will find:
- books, audio books and DVDs to borrow
- some books and newspapers in other languages
- a wide range of children’s books
- computers with internet access
- newspapers and magazines to read
- information about supplementary schools, community groups and places of worship
- information about adult learning classes e.g. ESOL (English for speakers of other languages).
Some libraries offer free storytelling sessions for young children and reading groups or homework clubs for older ones. The library should able to give you.
Other places for learning
For people who live in cities, national museums and art galleries offer exhibitions and events for all ages. Most towns also have a local history museum. You will also find leisure centres with sports facilities and swimming pools. Swimming lessons are available for children, young people and adults. Local parks usually have children’s playgrounds and some have tennis courts, football pitches and other sports facilities. Most of these facilities are free and by joining in some of the activities you and your children will meet other people, make friends and learn English quickly.
If you have young children, visit the local Children’s Centre where you can access early learning and childcare and find out about health services for children and young babies. All children are entitled to some free nursery education after age three.