Children's home and community learning in multicultural contexts

Submitting Institution

Goldsmiths' College

Unit of Assessment


Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Education: Curriculum and Pedagogy, Specialist Studies In Education

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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.

Underpinning research

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.[1][2]

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.[3] 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.[4]

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).[5] 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.[6]

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. DOI 10.1177/1476718X07080471


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 10.1080/13670050.2010.537742


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)[1] 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[2] 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.[3] We were also commissioned to produce resources for teachers and teacher educators on Learning with Grandparents for the TDA-funded Multiverse website.

Our Bilingual Learning project led to advising on Tower Hamlets Language Policy, emphasising the value of mother tongue to children's educational achievement.[4] 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.'[5] 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.[6]

Teaching resources for educators[7] were produced from the Nuffield project on curriculum frameworks for community languages through a series of Curriculum Guides[8] 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.[9] 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.[10] 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.

  1. podcast; also published in Language Arts, Vol.90, No.6, July 2013: 464-472
  2. 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.
  3. Resources are available on the Grandparents Plus website.
  4. 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 separately.
  5. `Teacher Partnerships for Bilingual Learning' leaflet
  6. The debate on Asian languages in schools on the BBC:
  1. 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 separately)
  2. Curriculum Guides for community languages available here.
  3. 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
  4. 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.