Schools with Roots


At Maslaha we offer a range of strategies to support UK primary schools develop sustainable and anti-racist practice around engaging with their local communities and families. We believe that if schools are more connected with their local communities, and teaching is more socially and culturally relevant to pupils, that pupil educational outcomes will improve and marginalized communities will have more opportunities to flourish.

  • Schools with Roots won the Evens Education Prize 2020, you can read more about this here.

  • You can watch a short film that outlines some of our Schools with Roots pedagogy and practice here.

We work to support schools in a range of ways. We offer a range of services where we work with teachers, staff and families to develop strategies shaped around the particular needs of each school and its local communities. This can include:

  • Teacher training around power and privilege - the ways that power and privilege operate systemically in society, are inevitably reflected in institutions such as schools.

  • Practical strategies and methodologies to bridge the gap between communities and the classroom.

  • Practical tools for teachers to better engage parents with learning so that parents become better equipped to support their children at home.

  • Developing channels where parents can share expertise and skills with school, and each other, in different ways.

  • Developing strategies to work with parents to develop their confidence and skills so that they feel able to contribute to school and in society.

  • Community conversations: supporting and training staff to more effectively engage with their local communities around sensitive issues such as the PREVENT strategy and relationships and sex education (RSE) in schools.

We ensure that working with these strategies can happen in ways that don’t add to teacher workload, and that in the long run will create more positive conditions for teachers to work in.

We also have a range of creative resources that support schools to more effectively engage with parents and families. You can access these resources here.

The Need 

  • Education research shows that children learn best when their culture, local context and language are reflected in school curriculum. This has been shown to considerably raise aspirations, engagement and a sense of belonging [1]. Today’s predominantly Eurocentric curriculum in the UK often doesn’t connect with the lived, cultural and historical experiences of a lot of pupils. Culturally responsive classrooms can allow for the deconstruction of harmful stereotypes and open space for positive self and cultural affirmations to be portrayed [2], this is more important than ever in the UK today.

  • Unconsciously or consciously teachers can have low expectations of pupils based on their cultural or class backgrounds, and students have been shown to have a high awareness of teacher expectations [3]. Research has shown this has a hugely detrimental effect on pupils and their ability to have the opportunity to flourish and achieve well at school [4].

  • There is low levels of trust and understanding between some communities and school. The government’s counter extremism Prevent policy has created a significant lack of trust between communities and schools and a sense of fear and alienation among Muslim communities. Between 2017 – 2018 3,197 Muslims were referred to the government’s counter-extremism Prevent strategy [5] - the largest proportion of these were under the age of 15.

  • Most schools say that they do not have an explicit plan for how they work with parents, and fewer than 10% of teachers have undertaken training on parental engagement. [6]

  • Government cuts of up to 60% to local authority budgets since 2010 mean councils have been forced to sell off libraries, parks, communities centres and thousands of public spaces for cost-cutting measures. The devastating loss of vital community resources and spaces has hit marginalised communities the most. [7] In this landscape primary schools remain as a place where parents regularly interact and engage, there is scope to explore how primary schools could feel more like a space of community care.

What We Did 

Since 2016 we have been exploring the question of how better engagement between communities and schools, and more socially and culturally relevant learning could improve pupil outcomes with a group of pilot schools. You can read more about our initial three year pilot of this work here.


These schools - Sandringham Primary School (East London) The Beeches Primary School (Peterborough) Poplars Farm Primary School (Bradford) and Marshfield Primary School (Bradford) - have been important pioneers and collaborators in the approaches we have been developing.

Outcomes from our work with primary schools over the past four years includes:


  • Improved pupil engagement and wellbeing.

  • Improved engagement and participation from parents previously seen as difficult to engage

  • Improved pupil attendance

  • Relationships between parents, local communities and school strengthened.

  • Parents feel more confident to support their child's learning at home.

  • Schools understanding community expertise and the importance of embodied community knowledge.

  • Schools engaging with communities in more accessible ways.

“The training sessions have made me think differently about my approach to teaching. There are things that I need to consider that I may not have thought about before. Especially useful for me, being a white person who grew up in Ireland where it was predominantly white catholic.” (Feedback from trainee teacher who attended Maslaha workshops on power and privilege.)

“We’re always so bogged down that getting families in can be seen as a burden – but we realise if we don’t get that right then everything else is harder – kids are more likely to do homework, parents more likely to come in – parents who have closer links know a lot better how to support their children in learning.” (Teacher, Beeches P.S.)

“Before this project I didn’t think that what I could do, the school could use. I didn’t feel I could contribute in any way. I would come to school and seriously just shrink away and not interact – this has been amazing for me as usually I am very introverted. Now I have good friends and feel useful!” (Parent, Sandringham P.S.)

“It was great to take part in this session because if we parents understand what the pupils are doing in class we can support them with their learning at home. It was also a boost to my confidence to attend, it’s good for us to learn life skills as well!” (Parent who took part in a Year 5 pupil-parent oracy session at Sandringham P.S.)

[1] Gay, G. (2000). Culturally responsive teaching: Theory, research, and practice (2000)

[2] NYU Steinhardt, Culturally responsive differentiated instructional strategies (2008)

[3] Rubie-Davies, C. (2010) “Teacher expectation and perceptions of student attributes: Is There a relationship?” British Journal of Educational Psychology, 80, 121-135.

[4] Tina Craig, Factors That Influence Teacher Expectations of Hispanic, African American and Low-Income Students (2011)

[5] Home Office (2018) “Individuals referred to and supported through the Prevent Programme, April 2017 to March 2018” p.14

[6] Education Endowment Foundation (2018) "Working with parents to support children's learning" p. 6

[7] Davies, R. et al (2019) “Revealed: The thousands of public spaces lost to the council funding crisis”, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism


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