Children's home and community learning in multicultural contexts
Submitting InstitutionGoldsmiths' College
Unit of AssessmentEducation
Summary Impact TypeSocietal
Research Subject Area(s)
Education: Curriculum and Pedagogy, Specialist Studies In Education
Summary of the impact
Research by members of the Centre for Language, Culture and Learning
(CLCL) has drawn public attention to the home and community learning of
children of migrant origin; highlighting the role of siblings,
grandparents, complementary schools and faith settings. We have influenced
practice in this important yet neglected area by engaging with
policymakers, teachers and community leaders through seminars, workshops,
print and online media including the BBC, and creating learning resources
for families and schools. The research has informed Tower Hamlets'
language policy, and received recognition by an influential audience at
the Council of Europe's Language Policy Division.
Much of this research was undertaken by a team led by Professor Eve
Gregory, who has been employed at Goldsmiths continuously since her
appointment in 1987.
During the early 1990s, there was a paucity of research in the UK into
the home and community learning of children from multilingual families in
disadvantaged urban areas, resulting in a deficit perspective from
mainstream educators. Our research has challenged this perspective by
investigating home and community learning, discovering strengths instead
of weaknesses and difference instead of deficit. A summary of our main
research underpinning impact is outlined below.
i. Home learning: Our first ESRC-funded project Family
literacy history and children's learning strategies at home and in
school (Gregory 1994-6) took place with Bangladeshi British and
Anglo families in Tower Hamlets, East London. Whereas attention had
previously only been paid to parents reading with children, this study
highlighted the role of siblings in children's learning. The research was
developed via a Leverhulme award Literacy practices at home and at
school: culture, community and context (Gregory, Street and Baker,
1997-2000), and an ESRC award Siblings as mediators of literacy in two
East London communities (Gregory, 1999-2000), showing how
siblings stimulated each other's learning through a process of `synergy',
and how they `syncretised' teaching strategies from mainstream school and
community language classes.
We then moved to the previously ignored topic of grandparents'
contribution to children's learning, through the ESRC-funded study Intergenerational
learning between children and grandparents in East London (Kenner,
Gregory and Jessel, 2003-2004). The research highlighted the special
relationship between grandparents and young children as they shared their
linguistic and cultural knowledge through a process of mutual exchange.
This work was disseminated internationally via the ESRC seminar series Multilingual
Europe (Kenner and Gregory, 2003-2005).
ii. Community learning: the ESRC-funded project
Bilingual learning strategies in mainstream and community contexts
(Kenner and Gregory, 2005-2006) showed how second and third generation
British Bangladeshi children in Tower Hamlets could draw on bilingual
skills developed in community language classes to enhance their learning
in mainstream school. A follow-on study funded by Paul Hamlyn Foundation,
Developing bilingual learning through partnership between community and
mainstream teachers (Kenner and Gregory, 2008-2010) led to an
exchange of pedagogies between the mainstream and complementary sectors.
Concurrently, teaching materials and innovative pedagogies for
complementary schools were produced through the Nuffield-funded projects Developing
language specific curriculum frameworks in community languages
(Anderson, 2004-2007) and Creativity in the community languages
classroom (Anderson, Gregory, Kenner, Kelly and Kirsch, 2009-2010).
This work is now being extended through a Paul Hamlyn funded project
`Critical Connections: Multilingual Digital Storytelling Project'
(Anderson and Obied, 2012-2014). An ESRC funded seminar series Complementary
Schooling (Kenner, Anderson and Archer, 2009-2011) brought together
policymakers, researchers and practitioners to debate these research
findings. Meanwhile, the ESRC recognised our research record by funding
the first large comparative study of children's learning in four faith
communities: Becoming literate in faith settings: language and
literacy learning in the lives of new Londoners (Gregory, Jessel,
Kenner, Lytra and Ruby, 2009 -2013). This is producing results to show
that children develop important skills and knowledge through participation
in these settings.
References to the research
Evidence of the international quality of the research:
References 1, 2, 3 and 4 draw upon ESRC funded research rated
`outstanding'. Reference 5 draws upon Nuffield funded research which has
received further funding from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation; reference 6
appears in a highly selective peer-reviewed journal and presents findings
from a large ESRC funded study (awaiting final rating from ESRC).
1. Gregory E, Long S, Volk D (eds) (2004) Many pathways to
literacy: Young children learning with siblings, grandparents,
peers and communities. London: Routledge. ISBN: 0-415-306-175 (hard
copy available on request from Goldsmiths Research Office)
2. Gregory E (2008) Learning to Read in a New Language.
London: Sage. ISBN: 978-1412928571 (hard copy available on request
from Goldsmiths Research Office)
3. Kenner, C., Ruby, M., Gregory, E., Jessel, J. and Arju, T.
(2007) Intergenerational learning between children and grandparents in
East London. Journal of Early Childhood Research 5(2), 219-243.
4. Kenner, C. and Ruby, M. (2012) Interconnecting Worlds:
Teacher Partnerships for Bilingual Learning. Stoke-on-Trent:
Trentham Books. ISBN: 978-1-85856-512-5 (hard copy available on request
from Goldsmiths Research Office)
5. Anderson J, Chung Y-C (2011) Finding a voice: arts-based
creativity in the community languages classroom. International Journal
of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism 14(5), 551- 569. DOI
6. Gregory E, Choudhury H, Ilankuberan A, Kwapong A and Woodham M
(2013) Practice, performance and perfection: learning sacred texts in four
faith communities in London. International Journal of the Sociology of
Education, 220: 27-48. DOI 10.1515/ijsl-2013-0012
Details of the impact
Our research has led to a greater inclusion of siblings and grandparents
in family literacy programmes, both in the UK and world-wide. This is
evidenced through key-notes at the National Foundation of Family Literacy
Conference (Edmonton, Canada, 2010); the conference on Facing Social
Inequality and Poverty (Sao Paulo, Brazil, 2012) and a podcast to
practitioners in the US (2013) as well as
presentations in New Zealand, Luxembourg, Spain, Ireland and France.
Nationally, our work has influenced practitioners through professional
development conferences in Lambeth, Tower Hamlets, Hackney, Brent,
Birmingham, Leeds and Glasgow.
The research on siblings as mediators of literacy reached the wider
public through a Radio 4 series called Brother Mine, in 2008, 2009
and 2010 and we were invited to advise the Basic
Skills Agency and charity Grandparents Plus on a `Learning with
Grandparents' project (2005-2006), resulting in a DVD, an advice booklet
and Good Practice Cards for schools and grandparents.
We were also commissioned to produce resources for teachers and teacher
educators on Learning with Grandparents for the TDA-funded Multiverse
Our Bilingual Learning project led to advising on Tower Hamlets Language
Policy, emphasising the value of mother tongue to children's educational
achievement. The innovative pedagogies resulting from
the Paul Hamlyn-funded study on mainstream-complementary teacher
partnerships led to training sessions for 100 primary and community
teachers in spring 2010 and conferences for 120 educators in July 2010 and
100 teachers in Luton in March 2011, with ideas for practice discussed
through our publication `Teacher Partnerships for Bilingual Learning.'
An article was commissioned for Nursery Education Plus with
website resources. Channel S Bengali TV company produced a programme on
the research, shown to 70,000 viewers in Tower Hamlets and a global
satellite and internet audience. The research fed into public debate on
the importance of supporting minority languages in schools via a BBC Asian
Network Special Report and a BBC News Article.
Teaching resources for educators were produced from
the Nuffield project on curriculum frameworks for community languages
through a series of Curriculum Guides with CILT (the
National Centre for Languages)for the teaching of Arabic, Chinese,
Panjabi, Tamil, Urdu, Cantonese, Gujarati, Somali and Yoruba. Ofsted's Every
Language Matters report (2008) said these were "an invaluable
resource for trainees and teachers ... ". The second Nuffield
project produced a guide on fostering language learning through arts-based
creativity disseminated at national conferences including ALL (Association
for Language Learning), CILT, the UK Federation of Chinese Schools and the
UK Association of Arabic Teachers. The Paul Hamlyn
teacher partnership project produced teaching resources for MFL (modern
foreign languages), community languages and across the mainstream
curriculum. All resources are publicly
available (1700 pageviews Jan-June 2013).
Members of CLCL sat on the Advisory Group for the Our Languages
project (DCSF), which encouraged partnerships between supplementary
and mainstream schools. We presented our research at the Investing in
Our Languages seminar at the House of Lords (2009). Together with
the National Resource Centre for Supplementary Education and ContinYou, we
produced a report for Our Languages in 2009 entitled Share Our
Languages: Family Learning, showing how parents can support
curriculum topics through home languages.
Our research on children's learning in faith settings resulted in a major
interfaith event attended by faith leaders, teachers and families at
Goldsmiths (June, 2012). Stephen Timms (MP for East Ham) attended and
described the work as a `great project' (Visitors' Book available). Findings
(2500 visits March-Sept 2013) were reported in the London Polish press and
presented at a keynote for the 2013 National Conference for the Year of
Faith to Head Teachers of the Diocese of Southwark.
Our CLCL team presented work on developing creativity in multilingual
classrooms at an intergovernmental policy forum for the Council of
Europe's Language Policy Division, held in Geneva in November 2010, making
recommendations for professional development of staff in schools across
Europe. This was well received by over 200 high-profile participants from
37 Council of Europe member states and Canada, the European Commission,
OECD and ALECSO. Most recently, our `Critical
Connections' project is influencing the practice of teachers,
policy-makers and researchers following a student-produced Film Festival
in summer 2013. This was attended by some 200 guests including: His
Excellency, Ambassador Shen, Taipei Representative Office in the UK; The
Counsellor Minister Mr Meriem Noureddine, Algerian Embassy; Baroness
Estelle Morris (Chair of Council at Goldsmiths, Trustee of Paul Hamlyn
Foundation); Abigail Knipe and Nora Loewenberg (Paul Hamlyn Foundation);
Pascale Vassie (National Resource Centre).
Sources to corroborate the impact
Hard or electronic copies of all sources are available on request from
Goldsmiths Research Office.
published in Language Arts, Vol.90, No.6, July 2013: 464-472
- BBC Radio 4 series Brother Mine. Episode 2: `Global
differences'. A Tinderbox production produced by Terry Lewis for
BBC Radio 4, broadcast on 22 Jul 2008, BBC Radio 4 (FM only), 1 Nov 2009
at 14:45 on BBC Radio 4, and 14 Aug 2010 at 05:45 on BBC Radio 4.
- Resources are available on the Grandparents
- Corroboration available on request from the Head of Tower Hamlets
Languages Service, concerning how our research has influenced mainstream
and complementary schools in the Borough. Contact details provided
Partnerships for Bilingual Learning' leaflet
- The debate on Asian languages in schools on the BBC:
- Policy and Delivery Manager, National Resource Centre for
Supplementary Education, can be contacted for information about how our
research has raised the profile of complementary schools and provided
training for the complementary sector (contact details provided
- Curriculum Guides for community languages available here.
- Conferences include:
a. Community Languages National Show (CILT) Southampton, 15 July 2009;
b. Arabic Language and Culture in Schools Conference (British Council,
ALL, CILT, SSAT, CASAW) British Council, London, 11 March 2010;
c. UK Federation of Chinese Schools Annual Teachers Conference (UKFCS)
University of Wolverhampton, 16 April 2011
- The document presented is available to a wide range of practitioners
on the Council
of Europe website where a Report
of the Forum including a list of participants is available.