Duda is a parent support advisor at All Souls Primary School
I’ve been at the school since my son started ten years ago, first as a teaching assistant, and now a parent support adviser. When I came lots of children needed more help than I would have assumed - lots of parents didn’t seem to be engaging with their children. When I met parents this became clearer – they had English as a second language or not at all, children working as translators for their parents, kids who weren’t confident in getting their parents on board.
Kids here are from all different backgrounds. About sixty five percent Bengali, with strong Asian and Chinese communities - now we’re getting more diplomatic children from around the world. Fitzrovia is very mobile: we have families who move in to small flats, stay a couple of years then move somewhere else. We have had really good Ofsted reports for the past couple of years, which influences the intake and keeps some kids here after they move. We have more than 20 families here who live on the outskirts of London and work here. There are closer schools to where they live, but it’s easier to drop off here and use after school provision till they can pick up.
We had a trip to the beach - these kids had never been to the seaside. But none of the parents wanted their kids to go. They didn’t trust us. We convinced them it was a good learning experience, to find out about different areas, and got them to take some chances.
Parents don’t always know what’s on offer, or feel secure with it. They worry about even going to another borough. But they know the school, so we started having courses here with Westminster Adult Education Service. We asked parents what they would like, and ran storytelling, English classes, and our most successful, sewing. The whole point of them was to let parents mix, but unfortunately the sewing group disintegrated because the organisers didn’t have enough experience in dealing with parents with language needs, and it ended up that some couldn’t come. Next time we would focus more on having a mixed class.
We still do English classes, Families and Schools Together, and have a strong PTA. I became a facilitator of a mentoring programme we run. When we advertised it, people thought it was only for parents of difficult children, but now they know everyone can benefit, and you see a change in how children behave too. When you offer programmes like this people are really eager – there is a thirst for knowledge and coping strategies.
Parents have fears about secondary schools – as there aren’t any in the area. Our children are going to Quentin Kynaston and Westminster Academy, which are not exactly on their doorstep. When my son was moving I didn’t know where to send him. As a parent and a teacher I think we need more schools, especially secondaries – but there are ‘more important’ things – education always seems to come last.
More development will drastically change the look of the area and the kind of people who are living here. I’m looking forward to seeing how that will affect us, if we will get more children – our nursery is already full with a long waiting list.
Eurostar and the regeneration at Kings Cross really changed the area. With the changes coming to Euston too - it will be amazing. When we moved there it was prostitutes and heroin needles – now I go walking and enjoying how beautiful it is. My son even asked me why everything is here in London! That’s what we notice – you want to live here.