At the October meeting, the Council approved a grant of £33,240 to Afghan Association Paiwand (AAP) towards a new Saturday school in the deprived area of Colindale, North London. Paiwand aims to benefit the refugee and asylum community in the UK, not just Afghan. It operates in North West London and, amongst other services, it provides education and training through three Saturday schools which focus on maths and English in partnership with local authorities and mainstream schools.
On 14th November, one of the BFSS Trustees, Mr Stephen Ross, visited Whitefield Saturday School near Brent Cross shopping centre in North London, one of the locations where BFSS is supporting this project. This is his report:
“I visited Whitefield Saturday School near Brent Cross shopping centre in North London one of the locations where BFSS is supporting this project.
Firstly, I had a meeting with Farid Mall, the director and Emily Beckwith, Education Service Manager. We discussed the current situation in local schools where the head teachers have requested assistance following a sharp increase in refugee families in the borough mainly from Eastern Europe – Romania, Poland etc. Some children and their parents speak no English. AAP would like to offer more classes in English is a second or additional language (EAL).
We also talked about the sustainability of the PAA model and how they were trying to increase capacity in their referring schools. AAP have introduced the idea of a link person in each referring school to be a champion for Saturday schools and deal with issues such as the children being referred but the parents not understanding what it is about and so not sending them.
Having signed in and received my visitor ID to wear I attended the teachers’ briefing conducted by Morgan James, the Whitefield School Saturday manager. They discussed logistics such as the allocation of Teaching Assistants for the day and wet lunch/play breaks etc.
I observed two classes in action an EAL class which dealt with techniques for translating from their own language into English and the target of 7 to 10 words per day with homework etc. Then a maths class. The children were well behaved, engaged and keen to learn. It may be that this environment with smaller classes is different from their usual school and gives them confidence and encouragement. All the teachers are paid a proper rate and were very committed and enthusiastic as indeed were Farid and Emily.
Through my own experience as a clerk to school governors including this borough I understand the need for this kind of supplementary schooling and the value it brings to the referring schools who financially support the project.
From what I saw, I am pleased that BFSS is supporting this project that clearly makes a difference and fits our Vision.”