We’ve just completed an annual review of our family education support & casework team, which is part of our Love to Learn education programme. We wanted to share what we’ve been up to over the last year (2020/21).
What we do
Our Family Education Support project provides free, confidential and impartial advice, and advocacy to support the educational outcomes of refugee families and their children, and Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children living in Wandsworth and neighbouring boroughs.
Refugee families come to us with all sorts of issues concerning their children’s education: from admissions to exclusions, Special Education Needs to bullying, the cost of education to attendance.
Our holistic, personalised approach ensures that:
- Refugees with multiple needs are supported in addressing these primary issues so that they do not simply come back when a secondary problem develops to crisis point – preventing ‘revolving door demand’.
- People are provided with capabilities and resources through the advice process so that they are better able to solve problems themselves or identify them earlier in the future – preventing ‘repeat demand’.
- Families are effectively and efficiently referred to other agencies who are best able to help them – preventing ‘referral fatigue’.
We support families in three ways:
- Firstly, we provide education advice and advocacy support to those in crisis – either one-off advice or longer-term casework support (av. 3 months). E.g. with school exclusions or bullying we liaise directly with the school, social work team, Pupil Referral Unit and family to resolve a situation.
- Secondly, we foster independence, equipping them with the skills, knowledge and resources to help themselves resolve similar issues in the future, engaging with education and accessing other support services. E.g. we run workshops to help families understand, navigate and negotiate their way through the UK education system to enable their children to thrive and achieve in school; or we encourage parents to make phone calls or fill in forms for themselves, once we’ve shown them how to do it first. This prevents a culture of dependency.
- Thirdly, we ‘refer on’ to other L2L services and partner agencies to ensure that people access further support services on other issues that affect family wellbeing and children’s education (e.g. housing, immigration, debt, health to local Citizens Advice, Law Centre and local refugee agencies).
What our young people and families are saying about our support
“Having someone to advocate on my behalf, I was able to be heard when decisions were being made about my family.”
“You are my family. Attending workshops gives me a support system.”
“You are my angel, whenever I speak to you I am calm and can carry on.”
“The most important thing, I was respected and believed, which gave me confidence to grow and progress.”
“I had a horrendous journey here, with X I share my pain. X never gave up on me.”
“Your support saved my life and my brother’s. For the first time in ages I smile.”
What we did
Last year 155 families benefited from our support, plus 57 UASCs, and 41 additional young people supported with their post-16 options. Parent workshops reached an additional 20 parents.
Our education casework is unique in Wandsworth and characterised by our language accessibility. We are the first organisation many families/UASCs come to. They describe us as an essential and trusted service. 83% of families self-refer themselves to our services. 57% of our family work involved support in Somali, Tigrinya, Amharic from our bi-lingual team. 97% of our UASC support involved Tigrinya/Amharic.
Casework underpins our Love to Learn team’s direct education provision and ensures this has the best chance of being effective.
- 31% of our work involves SEND support
- 15% exclusions
- 25% includes supported referrals to other agencies to address wider family issues (49% in 20/21, including 77 food bank referrals – this decreased as lockdown eased).
Some parents are taking more initiative in difficult school situations. Others are supporting each other through our parent workshops and the Somali Women’s Group. KLS’s adult education departments teaches ESOL (English), maths and IT which also helps. We witness a lot of peer support at our UASCs Youth Club on a Monday evening.
36% of work is shorter term e.g. school admissions support.
The remaining, more intensive, work includes, for example:
- Helping a father find housing and schools for his daughters, newly arrived from an Ethiopian refugee camp (now receiving 2-3 education sessions pw through L2L).
- Supporting a teenager, newly diagnosed with learning difficulties, with a difficult transition to a specialist school.
- Co-ordinating family reunions, including the release of a 14-year old from prison in Egypt (a UASC sister). Helping her to settle into education here.
- Supporting a parent’s considerable fight with a primary school and the council for SEN assessment and EHC Plan for her child.
- Through legal intervention overturning a ‘permanent’ exclusion of a teenager with no history of poor behaviour.
We campaigned successfully for better financial support for families, IT, activities, youth provision. At the beginning of lockdown, we secured 220 laptops to children and young people through our fundraising partnerships.
In 2020-21 we achieved the following outcomes:
Outcome 1: Access Education
153 children and young people accessed their education e.g. obtain school or college places, transfer schools etc. 95% issues resolved
26 UASCs were helped. 89% issues resolved.
Outcome 2: Thrive in Education
113 children and young people thrived in education e.g. supported with school issues, exclusions, SEN provision, Children’s Services input and financial support. 82% issues resolved.
57 UASCs were helped with language support, emotional support, help with school/college, accommodation, immigration, health, finance etc. 88% issues resolved.
Outcome 3: Increased knowledge and ability to navigate the UK’s education system
119 families were helped. 83% increased their knowledge and ability.
57 UASCs were assisted.100% UASCs increased their knowledge and ability.
If you are from a refugee background and need some help with your education then please call our Love to Learn team on 020 7585 0339 and [email protected]