Over the last three to five years, Bristol schools have taken productive steps to improve the engagement of parents although they ought to do more if they are to enable pupils remove hurdles to their advancement. The current engagement strategies, for example, should be looked at thoroughly and further developed to make schools be more democratically governed, but equally more responsive to the diverse needs of the local community.
Good inclusive school leadership, coupled with parental and community engagement, will inevitably result in successful local schools that communities can be proud of and rely on. Parents should not dessert local schools in times of difficulty and school leaders should not shut out external support service providers. The reality is that the majority of students are not going to get into these so called good schools because they are oversubscribed. However, what needs to be emphasised is that there are no bad schools. Schools are merely buildings. The interaction that takes place within them between all stakeholders is what makes some schools more successful than others.
The importance of education is not lost on Somali parents as they like any other group of parents would like to see their children succeed academically and professionally. During many community meetings around the UK, Somali parents have expressed their desire to see themselves and their children succeed in the UK through the attainment of educational qualifications and professional employment. They also made it clear that they want to integrate into wider society in order to provide their children with the best possible opportunities that this country has to offer. However, most of the Somali parents feel that some in school and wider social factors are hampering their children from succeeding academically.
In school factors are factors that are directly related to the schools and which takes place within the schools themselves. Among the most complained of in school issues are a lack of leadership, poor teaching standards, lack of permanent teachers, low teacher expectations and in some extreme cases, institutional racism.
On Saturday 20 March, the Somali Educators’ Forum, supported by the Somali Resource Centre, hosts a debate to discuss the roots of Somali pupil underachievement in Bristol schools.