Attendees: Jan Bradburn, Manchester City Council; Sheena Wadhera, Manchester City Council; Sondos Abaas, Almanar School; Mohammed Kouzali, Almanar School; Jenny Liu, Chinese Education Culture Charity College, Manchester; Norea El Mashay, Al Hikmah Academy; Mohammed Hasan, Samodon Trust; Ornette Clennon, MEaP/MMU
Integration Green Paper
– We discussed the Integration Green Paper and the Out of Hours School Settings paper.
– We also fed back on our group discussion from our last focus group meeting.
Awareness of Supplementary Schools, their activities and staff
– In the context of potential regulation, Sondos said that the government needs to fully know what supplementary schools do before placing extra regulatory demands on them.
– Sondos, Mohammed K and Jenny Liu said that their schools were Edexcel exam centres and that their role in the exam success of their students needed to be promoted more widely. They said that this was a challenge because their students sit their exams in their mainstream schools, which don’t seem to acknowledge the input from their supplementary schools.
– Sondos said that mainstream schools have extensive problems with exclusions but said that supplementary schools don’t have these problems because their children are too busy studying.
– Mohammed K said that most of their children are high academic achievers.
– Jan made the point that supplementary schools want to teach all children in their local communities but this was not a general perception of supplementary schools.
– Sondos also said that the schools achieve all of their results with very small budgets.
– Jenny Liu made the point that supplementary school Heads have to perform many roles all unpaid; from cleaning, teaching, administration
– Jan warned that the relationship between some mainstream and supplementary schools was sometimes strained because the former does not always recognise the financial constraints of the latter especially when it comes to venue hire.
– Jenny Liu said that she preferred working in secondary school venues because they allow her school greater freedoms to temporarily customise the space than do primary schools.
(My reflection: the debate about regulation in the context of PREVENT seems to conflate two distinctly different constituencies of young people because the schools represented by our focus groups work with high achieving, studious and ambitious young people who would be least likely to be at risk of radicalisation. It would appear that the young people at risk of radicalisation would also be at greater risk of other types of exploitation, which should also be closely monitored. Schools operating in dangerous environments that could be putting young people at risk were not likely to be participants in the voluntary code of practice that has already been established, in other words they will already be operating underground.)
Voluntary Code of Conduct
– Jan reminded us that Manchester City Council operates a voluntary code of conduct with its supplementary schools.
– Mohammed K asked who they could contact within the council if his school had social care concerns about their students.
– Sheena said that there were sign posts to other Council services but admitted that they could be made even clearer.
– Jan said that MCC can already intervene in terms of for example safeguarding issues, but also promoted and supported the adoption of effective school policies and designated safeguarding officers.
– Sheena asked how the group felt about the paper work that would be associated with regulation
– The group answered by re-iterating that if their work is valued then the government needs to come and see their work before imposing regulation.
– Sondos said that if they are required to do more paper work, they would want to be funded to be enabled to do so (taking into consideration their voluntary status)
Creating a Platform to Promote Manchester’s Supplementary Schools and Funding
– Norea said that our schools needed a platform to promote their achievements.
– Jan said that she compiles reports of all her visits/events/training on a monthly and annual basis.
– Jan said that she and her team are currently updating the MCC supplementary school page to include information about their schools’ achievements.
– Jan said that the culture, language and exam centre success needed to be promoted on the page.
– Sheena said that it would be possible to turn the current page into a holding page with links to some of Jan’s reports whilst the new page was being constructed.
– Sondos asked how the government regarded MCC and its work in this area.
– Sondos said that they needed the government to recognise what our schools do and that an MCC platform would help, so that schools could secure funding to do more but also to build sustainability in terms of their venue arrangements.
– Jan made the point that the government perception of supplementary schools is that they are reluctant to share and showcase their work with statutory agencies but in her experience in Manchester, this was the opposite. Jan said that she found that the schools that she and her team worked with were extremely open and welcomed scrutiny of their affairs. Jan attributed to this to a healthy relationship generated by good will by the Voluntary Code of Conduct.
– Sondos also said that funding would be welcomed to enable more work with mainstream schools
(My reflection: Manchester City Council needs to more aggressively promote itself nationally as a beacon of best practice in this area)
Supplementary Schools, Community Cohesion and Humanitarian Work
– Mohammed H said that supplementary schools tend to spend less time with the children but achieve greater motivation via their youth engagement
– Mohammed H said that Manchester’s supplementary schools need to meet more regularly to strategise their work in terms of collaborations
– Mohammed H said that many schools also do valuable charitable work (e.g. fundraising) for groups in their ‘home’ countries
(My reflection: the current network meetings could involve breakout sessions designed to encourage inter-school collaboration, especially if project funding were available to encourage such activities)
– Ornette asked if it would be possible to prepare schools via their policies, safeguarding and governance to become commission-ready in order to be able receive commissions from the MCC to provide local youth and community services.
– Ornette also asked if project funding for supplementary schools could be used to help them build a track record in order to help them become commission-ready for larger bids
– Sheena suggested that there should also be funding for a dedicated MCC team that would report the achievements of the schools
– Sandos said that this dedicated team could also do the paper work for the schools and become a community version of OFSTED
The focus group made the following recommendations:
– Funding is needed for pilot projects that promote community cohesion and inter-school cooperation. These pilot projects could act as opportunities to build track records for larger consortium-based commissioned services (e.g. youth engagement, adult literacy, etc)
– Funding is needed to create a dedicated LA team that looked after safeguarding and (teacher) training for supplementary schools. This team would also be responsible for managing any paper work that future regulation might create.
Linked to Research: Making Education a Priority (MEaP)