Success starts in the classroom for Somalis in Leicester

The UK is home of Europe’s biggest Somali community. Their presence dates back to the 19th century, where seamen and traders arrived and some settled in the UK to seek jobs in the seafaring industry. Their energy, entrepreneurial spirit and drive for self-fulfilment reverberates across generations.

Today Somali pupils in Leicester, host to one of the largest Somali communities in the UK, have demonstrated the biggest improvement in school attainment among the many ethnic minorities in the city. This is a testament both to the community and the city’s integration success story.

Somali students, who today form the third largest ethnic minority in Leicester schools, have continued to benefit from significant efforts from various agencies to raise academic performance. Results have improved dramatically over the last few years. In 2013, nearly half the Somali students received top marks in their secondary education, compared to less than one-third in 2008.

Improved teaching methods, parental and community engagement in schools, increased use of mentors and teaching assistants from ethnic-minority backgrounds have all contributed to better school results and an enhanced sense of belonging. The government has also allocated senior educational policy consultants or head teachers to some schools that are underperforming in order to evaluate their quality of support and provide advice on how to improve outcomes.

In the inner city of Leicester, Taylor Road Primary School (where 46{12e38f106f18400ea1da53be0017f974ee8051c2dd65ac8be2bbc14724cc2f4c} of the students are from Somali background) has been recognised by the national government for the impact of its work with new immigrant families. The school is well known for fostering a consistently high level of teaching and investing in Somali teachers, assistants, and parents as role models. This has shown that the active engagement of parents, both as a general part of the community as well as administrators in the school, can make an important difference. More parents are needed in such roles throughout the city.

One huge advantage for Somali children is that since 2008, education data collected by the local authority have identified Somalis as a distinct group, rather than placing them in a broader category of black African or Caribbean. This has allowed the council to develop a more detailed picture of the experience of Somali pupils and to develop specialized responses to their particular needs. Although these are serious obstacles, it’s hopeful the foundation provided by the previous generation’s commitment to education will continue to encourage progress in the years to come.