Equality of Access for Pupils from Minority Ethnic Communities

workshops by Pratima Patel Presented in March 2000


Pratima Patel - worked with RNIB Asian Families Project and am currently conducting a research degree (MPhil/PhD) at De Montfort University, Leicester. I am exploring the experiences of Asian parents of a child with a Visual Impairment in terms of service provision.

I will draw from examples/observations whilst working with Asian families - these can be inferred to other Minority Ethnic groups. Although these communities are not homogenous and are very diverse they have a common experience of discrimination and inequality - as they are defined or define themselves as a minority to the host population.

Thus policies and service delivery are often designed to meet the needs of the majority hence the issue of equal access!

Minority Ethnic Visually Impaired children


Isolation - sometimes there are small numbers of Minority Ethnic VI children in a particular school (mainstream/special) or setting.

Ayesha Vernon a Blind Asian woman writes of her experience that apart from another Asian boy she was the only Asian VI child in a residential school for the Blind

Name calling - racial abuse:


Subtle ways of adopting the dominant life style.

Ayesha experienced the above. In her study of Black Disabled women Ayesha identifies other women who have had similar experiences.

Children can be bullied because they are viewed as being different to the status quo. Whist we should celebrate diversity we must ensure that we do not emphasis the otherness of children as this can lead to isolation, racial abuse and bullying with detrimental consequences to the child.

Experiences of young Asian Students

Group meetings conducted over a period of time with young Asian VI students identified some of their experiences, which schools and colleges need to address in order to for their services to be inclusive. These students talked about:

Equal access

Are the following appropriate? Do these take into account the child's tradition, culture, religion?

Assessment tools - are these familiar to the experiences of ME children - can they relate to this within their everyday life.

eg: "One well known test has a picture of a couple involved in a Western style wedding ceremony. Hindu, Sikh and Muslims wedding bear no resemblance to this. I know that Asian children would have difficulty recognising this one" (Baxter et al, 1990:23) quoted in Begum N (1992).

eg; use of knife and fork. In most Asian communities food is consumed by using the hands or a spoon. Food is usually eaten with the right hand and this also applies to use of knife and fork. Using this for an assessment exercise is inappropriate.

Lessons - materials


Dietary requirements

Religious observations - consider this when planning lessons, activities and events. Access to relevant religious places.

Ethnic Minority Parents


Example 1

Parent with a child with VI, who spoke very little English. The peri-teacher was concerned that the relationship building between the teacher and parent was very slow. An interpreter was not beingused.

Example 2

Parent of about 6mth old VI child, wanted advice about the strategy she could adopt to help her child's development. This was the first incident of VI in family. Mum was aware that she may need to consider different techniques for developing her child's abilities and wanted to know what these could be. We referred her to the relevant Education VI team and also gave her some information produced by RNIB and invited her to an event we were organising.

In order for Minority Ethnic parents to assist with their child's development in the home, it is important that they understand the implication of Visual Impairment upon the child's development.

Peri-teachers need to consider whether teaching materials for preschool children relate to the parent's experience and are culturallyspecific?

Certain aspects of the child's home life needs to match expectations at school as this can have implications upon assessment, progress at school, etc.

Teachers need to assess their own knowledge of the child's culture, etc, and work with the parent and community groups to develop appropriate intervention.

Material and environments should be representative such as representative images, languages, etc, which are welcoming.

Respite care

Parents need to be informed of this service, how it can be accessed, and importance of this service for the child and the parent. Respite care needs to meet the cultural needs of the parents/child and parents need to be informed and reassured that the service will meet these needs.

Life chances

Education: Consider the parent's educational background and understanding of the educational system. Their experiences may be very different to their child's. Parents may have been educated in different parts of the world. Parent's background in terms of coming from a rural community or urban community is also important.

Child rearing practices: These need to be considered in particular when working with pre-school children and developing strategies for stimulation and motivation (touch and feel).

Priorities: Parents may have different priorities to that of the school/teacher. Parents may have other siblings and obligations.

Poverty: There is evidence to suggest that Minority Ethnic group are over represented in low paid work and also experience higher rate of unemployment. This has an impact upon the family's budget.

Way forward

Further reading

Begum N (1992) 'Somethin to be proud of...The lives of Asian Disabled people and carers in Waltham Forest', London, Waltham Forest race Relations Unit and Disability Unit.

Orton C (Ed) 'Asian Children and Special Needs', A report based on a conference by ACE, Tower Hamlets Association for Racial Equality, assistance from the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) and ILEA, ACE, London.

Shah R (1995) 'The Silent Minority- children with Disabilities in Asian Families', London, National Children's Bureau.

Vernon A (1996) 'A stranger in many camps: the experience of Disabled Black and Ethnic Minority Women', in Morris J (Ed) 'Encounter with Strangers: feminism and disability', London, The Women's Press.

Equality of Access for Pupils from Minority Ethnic Communities

Workshop - Minority Ethnic Vl children

Select appropriate age group (of children that you work with or have worked with) from the following:

Group A pre-school
Group B primary
Group Csecondary/FE/other.

In your group please discuss the following question drawing upon your personal and/or professional experience as relevant. Please jot down responses on flipchart paper - elect a note taker and person to feedback to the main group.

1. How would you go about developing equal access for Minority Ethnic VI children? (15 minutes)

A What aspects of developing access would you consider?

B Any difficulties that you envisage?

C How would you resolve these?

In your group discuss the issue of transition to the next stage. Consider aspects that arose in the previous exercise. (10 minutes).