SITES OF SOCIALISATION - POLISH PARENTS AND CHILDREN IN LONDON SCHOOLS
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Poland’s accession to the EU in May 2004 brought many new possibilities and opportunities for Polish migrants to Britain. In the period from May 2004 to June 2008, over 500,000 Poles registered with the Workers Registration Scheme as employees in Britain. One unforeseen consequence of this rapid increase in migration was the large numbers of Polish children arriving in British schools. According to office government statistics, there are over 26,000 school pupils in England whose first language is Polish (DCFS, Schools Census, 2008). Schools are not only places of education but also sites of socialisation and interaction. Social norms, values and expectations are taught and learned through both the formal and informal curriculum – in the classroom, playground and at the school gates (Adams and Kirova, 2006). For newly arrived migrant children and their parents school may be the place where they encounter the diversity of the host society in all its complexity and newness. While school may be regarded as a safe place of learning, it can also be daunting and confusing. Conversations at the school gates may provide parents with a valuable opportunity to acquire new information and make friends (Ryan, 2007). However, school can also be associated with culture clashes, negative stereotypes, feelings of isolation and even racist bullying. Thus, for newly arrived migrant children and their parents, school provides an array of opportunities and challenges. In this paper we explore these issues drawing on our research with Polish migrants in London (Ryan et al, 2007; 2008) and on Polish children in London primary schools (Sales, et al, 2008). Based on interviews with parents and teachers at 4 London primary schools, as well as some additional data from Polish children, we explore processes of adaptation, accommodation, negotiation and identity formation. In particular, we analyse the ways in which Polish migrants construct notions of Polishness in the context of education.
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