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.
At this particular time when communities are suffering due to cuts to services, and issues that have divided communities such as Brexit, we believe schools can play an important role as a place of community care.
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.
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 . 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 , 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 . 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 .
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  - 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. 
“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.)
“At the beginning getting the parents in and so on – it worried me as I’m not used to it. But actually it’s changed my mind about the ways that the children like to be taught, it’s changed my mind about what you can actually do with a class and it’s made me more confident with it.” (Teacher, Beeches P.S.)
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.  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.
“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.)
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 this work here.
These pilot 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 three 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 better understand their children and are more confident to support them at home.
Feedback from teachers, parents and pupils:
"The fact we have had so many parents committed to this project has made me realise there are definitely more like them, we should find them!” (Teacher, Beeches P.S.)
“It’s so useful for me to see my child in a different environment, she is very loud at home but I can see she’s a lot quieter in the classroom. We really enjoyed doing the activities for public speaking, I can now do these at home with her!” (Parent, Sandringham P.S.)
 Gay, G. (2000). Culturally responsive teaching: Theory, research, and practice (2000)
 NYU Steinhardt, Culturally responsive differentiated instructional strategies (2008)
 Rubie-Davies, C. (2010) “Teacher expectation and perceptions of student attributes: Is There a relationship?” British Journal of Educational Psychology, 80, 121-135.
 Tina Craig, Factors That Influence Teacher Expectations of Hispanic, African American and Low-Income Students (2011)
 Home Office (2018) “Individuals referred to and supported through the Prevent Programme, April 2017 to March 2018” p.14
 Education Endowment Foundation (2018) "Working with parents to support children's learning" p. 6
 Davies, R. et al (2019) “Revealed: The thousands of public spaces lost to the council funding crisis”, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism