Parkfield Community School is a large primary school situated in Saltley, Birmingham. The school serves a diverse, multi-ethnic community with 99% of its pupil population coming from ethnic minority backgrounds and 96.8% of pupils citing English as a second language. Saltey shares many of the problems common in deprived inner-city areas with low average income levels and modest levels of aspiration.
The school has been progressive and innovative in tackling some of these challenges but Head Teacher Hazel Pulley was keen to check a worrying trend of cultural factors affecting the progress of girls at Key Stage 2.
She said, “We had been seeing progress for girls in Key Stage 2 slow down dramatically year on year. They started off well, full of enthusiasm but something got in the way. The cultural tradition of focussing on boys in the family was disincentivising some of the girls”.
One strategy that Parkfield used to address this disparity was by inviting Mosaic into the school to run a programme in which selected girls and their mothers were asked to attend specially convened sessions. Beginning in 2012, these meetings aimed to promote the importance of female learning amongst families and to raise the expectations of both mothers and daughters about the amazing things they could achieve. The sessions also helped to build trust between the families and the school.
The results have been impressive with almost 100% attendance by the mothers and new-found enthusiasm for learning shown by their daughters. By the end of 2014, girls in Key Stage 2 attained higher results than the boys in reading and mathematics for the very first time.
The school continues to celebrate diversity and promote tolerance amongst its disparate community with coffee mornings and parent afternoons at which parents’ opinions and feedback are actively sought. Regular School Fayre Diversity Days have also been held, featuring pupils and parents celebrating and sharing their culture with the school community. Bollywood dancing and African drumming clubs are held after school and parents are always invited to watch their children perform.
In combination with Mosaic’s programme these initiatives and activities have helped Parkfield continue its success and the school now serves as an example for others around the UK of how to identify problems and then provide imaginative, uplifting solutions that benefit not just the school itself but the whole community. Their success was recognised recently by Birmingham City Council who gave them a Chamberlain Award for Communities and Inclusion, the first school in the city to win.