Reading — the best gift we can give our children.

The ‘Ethnic Minority and Traveller Achievement Service’ (EMTAS) works with schools to help raise the educational attainment of ethnic minority pupils. The team offers support to children learning English, helps improve outcomes for BME kids at risk of underachievement and also provides specialist staff for classroom support.

Gill Rowlands is the manager of EMTAS and has also taught in primary schools in the UK and abroad. Here she looks at the challenges of homeschooling when English is not your first language.

EMTAS is really fortunate in that we have strong partnerships with a number of community and voluntary services. Straight away, we realised that we needed to get information to our parents and carers about how best they could support their children during this extraordinary time and help to alleviate any worries or concerns.

With this in mind, we began to write a daily blog, alongside a weekly translated newsletter, offering guidance and tips as well as reassurance. Pivotal to the blog and the newsletter, is the message to parents and carers to be kind to themselves during this anxious time, and an appreciation that parents and carers will be multi-tasking, possibly home-working and supporting family members or neighbours within their community.

Our blog has enabled us to share the thoughts of other colleagues, Carl Dutton, an experienced CAHMS practitioner, Jamie Luck, Head Teacher of St Paul’s Junior School as well as Jackson Kavanagh, Director of AS Creatives. Each has provided a unique and reassuring viewpoint for our families.

Within Liverpool we have an amazing cultural tapestry, with over 100 languages spoken.

Some parents may be apprehensive that an extended time outside of school may impact on their child’s acquisition of English and ultimately their attainment. We have reassured parents and carers that this is not the case. Now is the time to really celebrate and develop the mother tongue.

Children who have a strong first language, particularly an academic one, will find the acquisition of English and other languages much easier. We have actively encouraged parents and carers to discuss learning in their strong language as this is where they will have all the academic language and lovely crafted sentences to model for their children.

Children may need to complete any work set by their schools in English but all of the talk about the work can be in the strong family language. Our families have been sharing their learning with us and we have a wonderful collection on our EMTAS Facebook page

Parents and carers can be apprehensive that they may not be familiar with the curriculum or the methods used. But our homes provide so many memories and fun times when learning. Our blogs and newsletters have focused on learning opportunities within the home for: maths, science and language, by baking cakes or making jelly to unearthing family board games … all that turn-taking and counting.

Our families have kept us up to date with what they have been up to and we have received some lovely photographs.

Reading is one of the greatest gifts we can give our children.

The love of books, the different worlds we can be transported to and the characters who become our best friends. Now is the perfect time for parents and carers to read to their children and listen to them read.

Not everyone is a confident reader and some of the best stories I have ever heard are not from books but from my nan’s vivid imagination … stories that as children would have us sat on the edge of our seats waiting in delicious expectation!

So if parents and carers don’t feel confident in reading aloud, we encourage them to weave a web of magic from their imagination and tell stories.

Many of our EAL parents may feel apprehensive that they cannot support their child’s reading in English. We want our parents and carers to read books and tell stories in their mother tongue, the home language, the one they feel most confident in using.

We want children to enjoy their reading experience. What a perfect way to end the day listening to a story in their mother tongue.

To read our full blog visit

‘Every day, the EMTAS team havs produced enough educational materials to keep our children learning through these difficult times. As a supplementary school and as a community we are grateful and appreciative of such efforts. Due to social media, the materials were shared locally, nationally and internationally. ‘

Razak Mossa, Chair, Liverpool Arabic Centre

Sharing the daily blog enables our refugee and asylum families to feel supported and part of the local education and refugee support network. It helps sustain our collective work to support their integration and sense of belonging.’

Seana Roberts, Operations/ Projects Manager, Merseyside Refugee Support Network

‘As a father of 6 I totally understand the worries and concerns that all parents and children have at this time. As a Head Teacher my answer is the same as I would answer as a father. Spend quality time with your children, do things that you normally don’t get the opportunity to do and keep yourselves safe.’

Jamie Luck, Head Teacher, St Paul’s Junior School

‘… if we all dig into our creativity, we can help to reduce anxiety and increase confidence, boost our collaborative skills and make us better problem solvers — and have a lot of fun in the process at the same time!’

Jackson Kavanagh, AS Creatives

‘It is OK to feel not OK about this and that includes parents/carers who might feel exactly the same.’

Carl Dutton, CAHMS Practitioner

Liverpool Waterfront