EU Roma Bilingual Support helps families from the Roma community and their schools in Cardiff.
Mainly working with families from the Czech Republic and Slovakia, EU Roma Bilingual Support (EU RBS) is part of Cardiff Council EMTAS (Ethnic Minority and Traveller Achievement Service). The service works with such families and with primary and secondary schools to create links between services and the EU Roma community.
EU Roma Bilingual Support exists as there is often not only a language barrier, but large cultural differences when it comes to children and education. This can create tension and misunderstanding. And this is where Ivana comes in. She works closely with families to remove these barriers, so that they can integrate fully within schools and the community at large.
So, as part of our round-up looking at the work that services in the Child & Youth Engagement package in Families First do, we caught up with Ivana to look at some examples of what EU Roma Bilingual Support does.
My role as a bilingual teaching assistant is unique, as my personal role also involves working with an Educational Welfare Officer. We work with Czech/Slovak Roma parents and children to improve school attendance of the children who regularly fail to come to school. Often I am the only person available to communicate in their language.
Two families under one roof
During a home visit to one family, we stumbled upon another family who were living in the initial family’s house. This new family consisted of a Mum, Dad, and seven children ranging from the ages 2 to 16.
At first we had to introduce and explain our supportive role for the family in order to make them willing to talk to us and disclose how many children of school-age they had.
After this we needed to explain the education system in the UK and emphasised its very friendly and positive approach. The parents found it hard to accept the lower legal school-age compared to that in the Czech Republic/Slovakia and also the different age grouping for primary and high school, as they know and prefer all their children within one school/building.
We offered help and support with the admission process by filling in and processing the application forms while keeping the parents informed on the application. The family needed to learn where the local schools are, how to get there and receive an explanation of the cultural differences, such as that the parents would be expected to walk their children to and from primary school at a particular time. When we learned that the local schools were full, we supported the family on the decision which school places to accept which would be most convenient for them.
As one of the children has a severe hearing difficulty and was in need of an assessment, I introduced the family to a specialist who examined the child at their family home. This was done in order to gain trust in a relaxed home-environment.
The parents were very apprehensive towards the prospect of sending their child to a special school, so we again offered a detailed explanation of the system, the benefits of special schools and the prospects these schools yield. We arranged and accompanied their visit to a regular school as well as a special school so the family could decide. They hence felt reassured and decided to send their child to the special school.
I also helped with admission information and basic school information with their other children, such as explaining the uniform, school routine, lunch arrangements, etc.
Even now, I still work as a communication channel between this family and the school on various issues and important information (school trips, school shows, issues with dinner money, explaining the absences, etc.) and provides supports with the annual review meetings on SEN with translations and explanations.
The parents needed lots of encouragement to get involved in decision making as they tend to only follow their children’s feelings and desires. It is especially difficult for a family of this size, so more intensive support and involvement from me and the Education Welfare Officer was required. We had to build an even higher level of trust for the parents to open up and disclose their worries, financial difficulties etc. numerous visits and phone calls were being made to provide in depth explanation, advice and encouragement.
We frequently informed the parents when children did not turn up to school and discussed the reasons when they stayed home. The school’s expectations on health-related absences was particularly challenging for the whole family so a very clear empathetic explanation was needed to change their perception. We advised the family on medical issues and appointments, and emphasised the necessity for presenting medical evidence to the school to authorise some absences. However, continuous encouragement is still needed.
Every effort has also been made in supporting parents by talking to the children themselves to understand the seriousness of consequences when refusing to go to school. Some instances of non-attendance required liaising with the school as we deciphered one of the children felt intimidated in her class.
We made sure that a full explanation was given in person when a FPN (Fixed Penalty Notice for non-attendance at school) was issued and reminded the family before the deadline, ensuring they did not need to go to court.
What were the outcomes for this family?
- The family were better informed
- Improved engagement with the school, as well as other services
- Improved self sufficiency of the whole family
- The family now have a better understanding of British system in various aspects
- Improved integration in the community
- Improved attendance of all the children
- Prevented the Court hearing for the attendance issue
- Prevented social services involvement
- Continuing to empower the children and adults
- Continuing to improve motivation for achievement
This is just one of the many families that Ivana and the EU Roma Bilingual Support service help in Cardiff every year. As you can imagine the needs and levels of support each family needs varies considerably.
From helping domestic abuse victims into refuges to explaining the role of sex & relationship education, helping parents with employment opportunities to getting the kids involved with after school activities, the work EU Roma Bilingual Service is vital for the integration of EU Roma families into the community of Cardiff.
If you’d like to know more about the service then contact the Families First Helpline on 0808 800 0038 or text 80800 starting your message with FamiliesFF.
The EU Roma Bilingual Service is part of the Child & Youth Engagement package of Families First in Cardiff
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