For migrants with children, schools were key considerations in deciding to settle in Scotland: they often expressed worries about uprooting children who were born in Scotland or who had moved with their parents at a young age. Scotland was seen to offer better long-term prospects for children who wanted to further their education or find good jobs. However, parents, relatives and carers had very mixed views of Scottish schooling. Initially some aspects of the Scottish education system could provoke criticism, as they differ greatly to systems in Central and Eastern Europe: e.g. less homework is given in Scotland, there is more emphasis on learning through play, less rote learning, etc – though some migrants liked the absence of corporal punishment. Pre-school/nursery education was perceived quite negatively, because there tended to be much less state provision in Scotland than in their countries of origin. However, opinions improved over time as migrants gained more experience and understanding of teaching in Aberdeen/shire.
Schools functioned as a key form of integration into the local community for children arriving in Aberdeen/shire. There were examples of younger children picking up English very quickly, even where their parents were struggling to find the time or resources to improve their own English. Parents also appreciated the extra help their children had been given help as new arrivals to local schools. Happily, there were few stories of migrant children being singled out by bullies for their nationality/race: younger children tended to be well assimilated at school. However, migrants who arrived as teenagers could have more difficulty fitting in.
Access to further/higher education was seen as a plus point for many migrants settling in Aberdeen/shire. A small number of participants had enrolled at Scottish universities since their arrival, and college courses in particular were very popular. Occupational mobility was significantly increased with language skills and/or Scottish qualifications, typically done part-time at local colleges. ESOL classes often served a wider role in integrating migrants, expanding their social networks and helping to familiarise them with Scottish life and local customs. Practicalities and the lack of transferability of existing qualifications meant that migrants often took courses in different subjects compared to their previous educational or work experience in Central and Eastern Europe. For example, migrants (particularly women) who had worked in professional roles would re-train or update their skills in hairdressing/beauty, cake decorating or accountancy in order to work more family-friendly hours or escape low-skilled employment.
Data Source: 2017, SSAMIS: Migrants and Education in Aberdeen/shire. Link.
Category: Qualitative Data
Topics: Aberdeen City Aberdeenshire Education Ethnicity Immigration