Welcoming families from overseas

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Welcoming families from overseas

Pillgwenlly Primary School in Newport offers numerous highly effective family engagement initiatives to welcome and assist families who have arrived from overseas. The initiatives have improved standards for disadvantaged learners and have provided those learners with the literacy and social skills they require to achieve at school.

Number of pupils: 640
Age range: 3-11 years
Date of Estyn inspection: June 2015

Information about the school

Pillgwenlly County Primary School is a large, inner-city school in Newport.  It has 633 pupils aged from 3 to 11 years, 94 of whom attend part-time in the four nursery classes.  The school has 21 mainstream classes, six of which are mixed-age.  The school houses a local authority learning support unit that caters for up to 10 pupils with moderate to severe learning and communication difficulties.  

Context and background to sector-leading practice

The three-year average of pupils eligible for free school meals is just over 40%.  This is well above the national average (21%).  The school identifies about 36% of pupils as having additional learning needs.  This is above the national average of 22%.  All pupils in the learning support unit and a very few pupils in the mainstream school have a statement of special educational needs.  Around 90% of pupils at the school are from ethnic minority groups or non-British backgrounds.  Many pupils have English as an additional language and around 20% start school with little or no English. 

Description of nature of strategy or activity

Pillgwenlly Primary works effortlessly to welcome and assist families who have arrived from overseas.   Many of these have not experienced the United Kingdom Educational System and many who had little educational experience in their home country.  As an attempt to help both the parents and children with the transition into full time education, Pillgwenlly offers numerous highly effective family engagement initiatives.

These initiatives include:

  • Family Nurture Group
  • Nurture Groups
  • Open College Network Qualification Family Learning Course specialising in English
  • Family Intervention Learning: Reading Booster Classes and Maths Games Classes
  • Family Lending Library
  • Practical Parenting Sessions
  • Language and Play and Number and Play
  • Reception Parents Literacy Club

Family Nurture Group

There has been a significant increase in learners arriving at Pillgwenlly Primary School, who do not speak English and have had little or no previous school experience.  The school recognised the particular needs of these learners and needed a strategy to engage the families in the life and work of the school.  The school established a Family Nurture Group to provide the families with social and emotional support while assisting them to settle into the local community and school.

The family Nurture Room provides a place where pupils and their families (parents or grandparents) can join them for part of the week.  All learners have a base class.  The pupils access the Family Nurture Room for 55% of their week, working alongside their family members for 10% or 20% of the week and attending their base classes for the remainder of the week with home language support.  As soon as the learners have acquired the skills to support them with their learning and wellbeing, they transfer into their base class full time.  The Family Nurture Room has also provided a forum for parents to have access to support resources; for example - school nurse, midwife, dentistry and other professionals.  

Nurture Groups

Pillgwenlly Primary offers a Nurture Group to provide a suitable learning environment for some of the most vulnerable pupils and the ‘hard to reach’ parents.  Parents fully engage with the Group and attend ‘Play and Stay’ sessions.  These sessions involve the parents/guardians attending class for half a day and working with their child and the Nurture Group adults.  The school also offers reading guidance sessions to parents/guardians on a regular basis.  These opportunities assist parents/guardians in becoming confident in attending school events and having a clearer understanding about their child’s learning.  This year, Pillgwenlly Primary School also piloted a project: ‘Engaging Parents Through Ipad Learning’.  This was popular, and parents stated that it provided them with information on purposeful Ipad use at home.  Attendance at all events was good.  Parental responses included: ‘you get a sense of family in this school’, ‘he knows how to take turns now and how to learn in the class’; ‘ as a parent I am not concerned about asking the school questions now – nurture group has developed my confidence as well as my child’s’.  The Foundation Phase Nurture Group has been in operation since 2004.  The school has achieved the Boxall Quality Mark Award.

Open College Network (OCN) Qualification Family Learning Course specialising in English

Pillgwenlly Primary offers weekly Family Learning Sessions for parents within the Foundation Phase, with a focus on basic skills in literacy and numeracy.  The first part of the morning session focuses on developing the parents’ knowledge and understanding of the English Language and during the second part, the parent learns alongside their child in a classroom situation.  Parents attending this workshop had a desire to gain a qualification; hence, the school new calls it the OCN (Open College Network).  This parent group currently consists of twelve families.  Many parents who have completed their OCN qualification in previous years, are now ‘parent mentors’ and support new families in achieving their OCN qualifications.  This has encouraged parents to extend their training and gain additional qualifications at college. 

Family Intervention Learning, Reading Boosters Classes and Maths Games Classes.

Pupils taking part in the Maths Catch Up Programme have some learning sessions with their parents.  Staff explain to parents how to use resources such as a ‘hundred square’, ‘multiplication grid’, and number lines to help their children with mathematics  The family session also involves playing maths games; many of which the parent makes to take home.  As a result, parents have gained a clear understanding of the content of the Maths Curriculum and children have the opportunity of sharing their numeracy skills.

Family Lending Library

Families can borrow games, puzzles or books on a weekly basis.  Staff show pupils how to play the games in order for them to share the activity with their families.  This is a really exciting and popular project and is now available in both the Foundation Phase and key stage 2.

Practical Parenting Classes

Pillgwenlly Primary School offers families help and guidance in supporting them with their routines and boundaries at home.  It gives parents the opportunity to make visual timetables for the home, routine charts to support them in getting their children to bed and to school on time, positive behaviour charts and healthy eating strategies.  Trained school-based staff work with the pupils in order for them to engage in the home activity.  Parents who have accessed this support speak very highly of the support it has given them organising their family home.

Language and Play/ Number and Play

In the Autumn term, new Nursery parents attend Language and Play sessions.  Parents attend practical sessions alongside their children in order to gain a better understanding of how their children learn, and how they can support this learning at home.  A Numeracy and Play programme follows this in the Spring term.  A fully trained in-house facilitator runs this parenting programme.

Reception Parents Literacy

As a continuation of parental engagement in Nursery, though Language And Play and Numeracy And Play, parents of pupils in reception classes attend literacy sessions on a Wednesday in the Family Learning room.  Parents continue to develop their knowledge of how they can support their children’s learning at home.

Pillgwenlly Primary School recognises that there is always more to do to engage parents in their child’s learning and attitude to school life.  This year the school has also produced the following information leaflets:

  • Attendance: Every Day Counts
  • How to Help your Child with Maths: Every Day with Numbers
  • How to Help your Child with Reading: Every Day with Word

Outcomes / Impact on learners:

The outcomes have included forming trusting relationships with new families.  Their participation in school life has resulted in improved standards for disadvantaged learners and has provided those learners with the literacy and social skills they require to achieve at school.  Learners’ attitude to school has developed positively; pupil attendance rates have improved (range of 47% to 71% to a range of 84% to 96%), parent attendance at family learning sessions is between 94% and 100%, parental attendance to consultation evenings has also significantly improved.

How have you shared your good practice?

The school has shared its practice in both the Family Nurture Group and the Foundation Phase with schools across Wales and some schools from across the border.  Staff from Pillgwenlly Primary School attend Nurture Network Group Meetings and have presented at the National Nurture Conference and at a local Neglect Conference.