Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

A Mother Lode of Aspiration

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

A Mother Lode of Aspiration

Article excerpt

Boost Muslim girls' ambitions - by starting with their mums

Aspiration is a tricky area for schools to negotiate. Teachers, parents and students all aspire to an end result but they often don't agree on what this should be.

At my school, this is a particular issue for female pupils. The majority of the children are from Pakistani Muslim backgrounds where there are strong expectations that female family members will perform roles around the home. Although some of our parents are ambitious for their daughters, we still have a group of families with low academic expectations of their girls. How do we reach them?

Mothers are the way in. We often find that their own aspirations were curtailed by family expectations. "I didn't have the opportunity, but I'm going to make sure it's different for my daughter," they say.

To help us build on mothers' aspirations, we work with the charity Mosaic. Founded by the Prince of Wales, Mosaic inspires young people from deprived communities to realise their talents and potential. Its mentoring programme is a perfect fit for us, as it not only raises the aspirations of Muslim girls but also empowers their mothers.

The programme consists of 10 weekly, hour-long sessions for mothers and another 10 for daughters. The girls explore issues such as confidence, communication and role models, while the mothers look at topics including citizenship and understanding British education. To complement the sessions, mothers and daughters are provided with resource booklets that they can refer to throughout the course and beyond. And a university visit, hosted by student ambassadors, provides exposure to further education. Mothers and daughters are invited to a prominent university to participate in workshops, a tour of the campus and a presentation about university life.

The scheme also brings in professional women from the community to act as mentors and role models, inspiring students to pursue careers in a range of sectors.

The impact on our school has been huge: confidence has increased and aspirations have been raised. There is a real eagerness among mothers to support and engage their daughters in long-term education.

So, how can you do the same in your school? Here are some practical tips on making a programme like this work.

Focus on initial engagement

Enthuse the girls about the project - their enjoyment and appreciation will help to persuade their mothers to join. The obvious pleasure the girls receive from sharing one-to-one time with a parent can really give momentum to the programme. …

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