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Migrant school mums learn English in friendly setting

29 May 20150 comments
AMES Counselling Coordinator Heather Weaver and Sister Joan Healy.

AMES Counselling Coordinator Heather Weaver and Sister Joan Healy.

AMES Footscray has joined with an order of Catholic nuns to provide newly arrived migrant and refugee mothers of school-age children with English lessons in a new and innovative program.

Josephite nun Sister Joan Healy identified a need for mums at St John’s School in West Footscray to learn English to become more involved in their children’s education.

With a grant from the Mary MacKillop Foundation and help from staff at AMES Footscray, around ten mothers are now accessing English lessons in a relaxed and friendly environment at the historic St Joseph’s Convent in Essex Street.

Sister Joan said that the school needed to be able to speak to someone in each of their students’ families and that often mothers were the most available and appropriate contact points.

“However some of the mothers had very little English, so we set this up to give confidence to the mothers in their English – especially around the education of the their kids,” she said.

The mothers are typically young and come from China, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Italy and South Sudan.

“We teach them in a very communal, informal setting in which the mums are comfortable. They can also have their children with them and we provide child minding at the convent,” Sister Joan said.

AMES Counselling Coordinator Heather Weaver said the once-a-week program was unique and had potential for expansion.

“For us at AMES it’s a terrific program and what is important in this is that it is allowing parents to engage more closely in the wellbeing of their young children at school,” Heather said.

“We know that a lack of parental engagement is a risk factor in children’s education and we saw an opportunity to provide learning in a place where the mums would be comfortable,” she said.

“We have seen the benefits of the program in the increased confidence among the mothers, some language acquisition, increased cultural understanding of the expectations of parents and the school itself, and in the opportunities to make new friends,” Heather said.

For more information on this story, contact the Communications Unit on: 9938 4031.