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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 marginalised communities will have more opportunities to flourish.

Schools with Roots won the Evens Education Prize 2020, you can read more about this 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 Eurocentric curriculum in the UK often doesn’t connect with the lived, cultural and historical experiences of children and young people. Culturally responsive and locally relevant pedagogies allow for the deconstruction of harmful stereotypes and create safer spaces for students to bring in learning experiences from outside the classroom.[2]

  • Unconsciously or consciously teachers can have low expectations of pupils based on their cultural or class backgrounds. This is picked up on by students who 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 are 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 closed, sold or reduced access to libraries, community and leisure 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 it is important to explore how schools can become community spaces where parents, carers and community members can regularly interact and engage.

[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

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. You can read more about our initial three year pilot of this work here.

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 includes:

  • In-depth school support

  • Teacher training - Schools and Universities

  • Resources

  • Additional services 

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.


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