Prof Uvanney Maylor (Bedford University) presented the first ESRI seminar of 2013. The title of her talk was ‘Knowing they Matter: Black Parental Involvement’ and explored the contrast between the mainstream perception of Black parents as unsupportive and uninterested in their children’s education and the gamut of evidence to the contrary, in particular in the existence of and engagement with supplementary schools.
Supplementary schools have been in existence in England since the 19th Century when Irish immigrants established them for their children and subsequent immigrant groups have continued the tradition. The schools currently occupy a strange place in the education system. The exact number is unknown, somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000 are run from the front rooms of houses, community centres or in mainstream schools. One school has as many as 5,000 pupils on its roll. Another baffling feature is that there is typically little formal interaction between mainstream and supplementary schools, even when they share the same premises. Nevertheless, supplementary schools open their doors on evenings and weekends to provide a culturally appropriate context for pupils to learn a native tongue, an ancestral culture or to develop the tools and resilience to survive in mainstream education.
A central focus of Prof. Maylor’s talk was the experience of Black parents and children in mainstream education in relation to the subtle and overt forms of racism they encounter. The talk was replete with depressing examples where despite a decade or so of awareness raising initiatives Black parents and children are still perceived as problematic and disengaged in education. One headteacher, for example, wished if only Black parents would care as much about their child’s education as the teachers did! In response, supplementary schools provide a ‘supportive, open and accessible, friendly and approachable’ learning experience that does not alienate parent or child.
The existence of supplementary schools represents a chastening reminder of how some schools continual to fail Black children and families, whilst also evidencing the lengths parents and communities have to go to provide a decent education for their children.
All of us at ESRI would like to thank Prof. Maylor for taking the time to come to Manchester to present her work.
To read more about supplementary schools check out:
Maylor, U. et al (2010) Impact of supplementary schools on pupils’ attainment: an investigation into what factors contribute to educational improvements, London: DSCF.
Maylor, U. et al (forthcoming) ‘Exploring the impact of supplementary schools on Black and Minority Ethnic pupils mainstream attainment’, British Educational Research Journal