Beginning in Birmingham
Campaign for Learning and Smartlyte carried out consultation in three Birmingham schools, involving around 70 parents from a range of BME communities, including Indian, Parkistani, Somalian, Sudanese and Yemeni. Romanian communities also took part. Birmingham is the ninth most deprived local authority in the UK, with almost half of the city’s BME children living in poverty (43% in 2013). “The schools were either in the inner city or in disadvantaged areas nearby,” explains Hafsha. “We thought long and hard about how we could open up the conversation. EAL families don’t like to talk about money, especially in front of their neighbours at their children’s school.”
“Salim [Smartlyte co-founder] led the process,” explains Juliette. “He asked two pertinent questions: what does happiness mean to you and what does success mean to you?” From these questions and further exploration, the team could gather valuable insights, including what prevented families from achieving their goals and where money was going out each month.
“Everyone involved wanted to contribute,” adds Hafsha. “In one school in a particularly deprived area, we had mums, dads, babies in buggies and grandparents.” This understanding shaped the pilot. “We could make sure the content was really hitting the mark. We also made the programme modular in structure for busy parents.” Each session was stand-alone, so there was no sense of falling behind if a workshop was missed one week. The course was designed to run for 10 hours over five sessions, but the resources could be used flexibly to suit the tutors’ setting and families supported.
Materials were refined throughout the pilot phase. This involved 51 parents and over 70 children in five schools in Sparkbrook and surrounding areas of Birmingham. The pilot schools were shortlisted based on the numbers of pupils whose first language wasn’t English, as high as 9 in 10 of the pupil population. “The pilot phase was invaluable,” adds Juliette. “We were able to test all the materials we developed and sharpen them.” After the pilot, the materials remained largely unchanged.
Tutors were trained on a one-day course, using a selection of materials from the facilitator toolkit. This included ‘People Bingo’ as an icebreaker, a quiz to identify the participants’ money personality type and other course activities. “During each tutor training session, we reinforced professional boundaries on debt and legal advice,” says Juliette. Tutors were able to familiarise themselves with free national and local support services in these specialist areas.