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International Journal about Parents in education Coyiright 2007 by European Network about Parents in Education

2007, Vol..1, No. 0, 63-72 ISSN: 1973 - 3518

Promoting closer ties and cooperation between the
school, the family and the community in the
framework of intercultural education

Pavlina Hadjitheodoulou-Loizidou Loizos Symeou
Cyprus Pedagogical Institute, Cyprus College,
Latsia, Cyprus Nicosia, Cyprus

This paper describes the findings of a comparative study of rural and urban communities in
Cyprus concerning the perceptions of primary school teachers and community stakeholders as
regards school–community relations. The data were collected via a semi-structured
interviewing technique amongst primary school teachers and community stakeholders. The
analysis of the qualitative data demonstrates that both primary teachers and community
stakeholders whether in a rural or an urban area consider school– community cooperation as a
positive and important factor in their respective spheres of interest. However, teachers were
found to maintain a more conservative stance towards relationships with the local community,
believing that their professional autonomy is threatened by interferences of community
stakeholders and agents. Furthermore, there was a divergence of perceptions between rural
participants and their urban counterparts as regards to the extent to which such a cooperation
should take place; both teachers and community stakeholders in rural areas seemed to be more
willing to extend their communication and their relations in additional fields. On the
contrary, teachers and community stakeholders in urban sites seemed more conservative
towards such a situation; they regard that such a cooperation and such relations should be
limited. The findings come to validate similar findings reported in the limited literature in
Cyprus (Georgiou, 1998; Symeou, 2002) and indicate that there is a lot of ground to be
covered towards extending and improving school–community relations for the benefit of all
institutions concerned.

Aiming at intercultural education, schools
All historical, demographic, cultural and may modify the curriculum content and the
socioeconomic characteristics are reflected in methodological practices, prioritise aims and
school life. During the last few decades the objectives according to the values, beliefs,
Cyprus community experiences great changes in traditions, perceptions attitudes practices and
the population due to the increased flaw of activities that the teachers, pupils, parents,
immigrants or repatriates and the partial lifting of community stakeholders have in defining the
the restrictions of crossing the demarcation line in situation and designing their action (Cordeiro et
April 2003. In addition, discussions on intercultural al, 1994; Planas, 2007) even in a highly
issues have increased lately not just because of centralised educational system as the one in
the schools becoming multicultural but mainly Cyprus. Educational practices vary and differ due
because this multicultural character is broadly to differentiation of the aspects of school culture
recognized and accepted. involved (Leithwood, 1992; Leithwood & Jantzi,
1999). It is actually suggested that school
Correspondence concerning this article should be effectiveness in schools with culturally diverse
adresses to Pavlina Hadjitheodoulou-Loizidou, e- pupils is particularly affected by the school climate
mail: and culture (Valverde, 1988).


presented in this paper was to investigate the instead of assimilating them. presented the philosophy of teaching Greek as a second language. suggestions on specific actions relating to teacher The intention of the Ministry of Education education and training and parent and community and Culture to secure freedom and human rights involvement that would enable the implementation of all members of the society and to prevent of the directive presented above. in secondary school. Furthermore. 2002). activity and exercise books. Additionally. 1998). and particularly those coming from to education cannot be denied to any children disadvantaged backgrounds. In order to of all non-Greek-Cypriot pupils. teachers’ books with methodological instructions and a A strong benefit of this model is that variety of suggestions for activities. as well as tests resources in Greek. Oikonomidou. who have more linguistic Greek in a Greek-speaking environment. the number of which (Martidou 2003. The appendix accompanying this directive Wolfendale 1997. Gotovos. at the beginning of the school-year. the different axes in school life can be involved in aim of integrating smoothly these children in the education was a challenge. bilingual pupils The Context can attend classes as observers (no semester grades are given) and sit for written examinations On the 29th October of 2002. as well as Gibbons. A school culture racism and social exclusion. assistance according to their specific needs1. that actively cultivates school-family collaboration The reference to the General Attorney consultation fosters learning and high achievement scores (in of 2002 illuminates issues regarding the education particular through elementary school). one of the in September. therefore enhancing their own that assess their proficiency level in the Greek language acquisition of the Greek language. 1991) through children find themselves in the country. the teachers for achieving this aim was through supportive and and the parents of four schools with pupils of differentiated programmes of Greek language diverse background. (also prepared by the Pedagogical Institute of Greece). 2006). 1991. This demographic data regarding the “newcomers” in involves putting bilingual pupils in a separate class schools or attitudes about intercultural education for some hours of the week. 2003) and in is decided by the Council of Ministers. ‘empowering’ parents (O’Connor. for intensive limited cases on deeper analysis of structures and learning of the Greek language and specialised strategies (Hadjitheodoulou. PROMOTING CLOSER TIES AND COOPERATION The data on such issues in Cyprus is In addition to the mainstreaming currently rather inadequate. regardless of 1 the level of the Greek language knowledge. mainly on the following: the growing number of In this context. It focused language at the Adult Education Centers. teachers usually prepare their own or they can use teachers. trying to investigate how non-Greek speakers in Greek-Cypriot schools. Based on this enhance the learning circumstances of all pupils consultation the Ministry concluded that the right however. According to this. Waller & Waller. Actually the Ministry directive a second language (prepared by the Pedagogical Institute expressed the belief that to satisfy the needs of of Greece for the teaching of Greek as a second language bilingual children it is not enough to enable them to primary school children whose mother language is not to learn to read or learn the grammar rules but in Greek). to communicate with needs. 2002. a flexible system of intervention has focused on surveys and collection of within the ordinary timetable was suggested. could be achieved living in the territories of the Republic of Cyprus only if schools maintain strong relationships with regardless the circumstances under which the all families (Tomlinson. all Since teaching bilingual student often requires the use of pupils should learn Greek in order to be able to specialised material that accommodates their particular attend school classes. of mainly bilingual pupils by participating in the educational communicative character. in this case the native speakers. 1994. The aim of the study Greek-Cypriot educational system and society. Culture has provided all schools with a curriculum they will have the chance to communicate with designed for the needs of bilingual student who learn more adept language learners. longest circular letters ever sent to the public At the same time they can attend language schools under the title “Intercultural Education” classes in the Governmental Institutes or attend declared the main policy of the Ministry of afternoon classes for learning Greek as a second Education and Culture on the issue. In addition. classmates and other people and material designed especially for the teaching of Greek as become socialized. in order to propose learning. The route suggested needs and attitudes of the pupils. the Department of processes with the other pupils belonging in the Primary Education of the Ministry of Education and classroom and the school at large. This material has been sent to all primary schools addition to promote and develop critical and it includes books for the teaching of the Greek communicative abilities (Cummins. 64 . Research in the area programme. language.

whereas in School A. the community– function in adapted their work to the above situation. In all schools there was high the class along with the native Greek-speaking concentration of pupils from immigrant. Over the last years the Departments of Primary and Secondary Education have adopted various support measures for language support. the times with the intention to act in such a way Data were collected through recorded field that they could prevent it. The particular schools phenomenon observed throughout the year in all were interesting and challenging for both their schools and was considered as an interrelated uniqueness and commonality. The children were notes and informal interviews with teachers and placed in the classes where they were better pupils during visits to the schools. teachers. searching for patterns On the contrary in the primary schools how the and themes and direct interpretation was used headteachers handled the situation. Special educational system. the allocation (Falconer & Byrnes. similar to each other in many ways and unique in The arrival of new pupils was a many others (Stake. categorical aggregation. 65 . In all schools there were discussions with socioeconomic status families.emerged as aims so that the objectives of the intercultural keystone. the teachers parents. as it was mentioned in the an intervention programme directed by the directive presented earlier. heads and pupils in the contributes a lot. Education and Culture. opinions and the two secondary schools things were rather interactions. the model used in all Pedagogical Institute of Cyprus in two primary and participating schools was the mainstreaming two secondary schools with different student programme in which bilingual pupils participate in populations. It was interesting to characteristic of the daily school routine (Reid & hear stories. For example in School A. All four areas The distribution of school subjects and were examined through a complex interaction responsibilities considering the abilities and the model of different factors where the headteachers’ disposition of each teacher was regarded as an decisions and reactions to the children -curriculum effort to interrelate the teacher with the school and teacher-curriculum interaction. In data analysis and interpretation difficult as structures available were not helpful. In this case as well. home context. their ordinary pursuits and milieus as well as to sometimes with negative reactions. in School B the deputy head who was responsible for dealing with issues relating to Coping with bureaucracy bilingualism had a positive approach that All teachers. etc. language issues. low pupils. the diagram in the Appendix. headteacher’s decisions and support proves to be the factor on which success depends. 2003) forming four main of extra supportive hours. seemed to be of categories: managing diversity. in the case of teachers’ and pupils’ attitudes. All decisions and actions in qualifications and real commitments in the job the Greek-Cypriot educational system are were not regarded as prerequisites. the participating schools experienced work with supportive class for children with language culturally diverse pupils in a centralized difficulties is not dealt with great care. education could be promoted (Neuharth-Pritchett All factors observed are presented in the et al. 1996). since in teacher had supportive hours for pupils of his/her education each program or people in focus are class. Having accepted this. to learn how all the actors –pupils. which refer to the learning of Greek as a second language and measures for facilitating the smooth integration of groups with different cultural identities. the Art teacher was also responsible for The expectation was to catch the the supportive classes while in School D each complexity of each participating school. 1992). Extensive field encouraged to see school as a friendly and notes were taken by recording details about beneficial environment. school context. It was interesting to find that in each school there were differentiations in the ways the The Method measures were implemented. However. Young. class. either were promoted through the Departments of Primary they encouraged by the headteacher or the Local and Secondary Education of the Ministry of Educational Authority. crucial importance. but most of put aside many assumptions. For Findings example. 2000). and pupils whose the researchers on how to implement and use the language differed from the main language of material in the mainstream or the supportive instruction (Greek). PROMOTING CLOSER TIES AND COOPERATION The study involved the implementation of More specifically.

the school organization on language learning and teacher needs analysis and design of in-service managing diversity training. In this On the other hand in all schools another context the teachers were encouraged to learn group of teachers could be identified. Some of the teachers in School is different from the home culture. different ethnic backgrounds in different schools. Blanco. communicate with their pupils racist behaviour. interculturalism. only in one case (School initiative. Each head reacted in different bureaucratic characteristics and resources ways especially in relation to promoting co. If the school culture in-service training.. PROMOTING CLOSER TIES AND COOPERATION You see. Measures proposed referred to definition of the school and community profile. Numbers of these pictures and the stickers as teachers in these two groups differed according to reinforcement… I don’t know.indigenous. At the same researchers and staff. all teachers worked together to form a particular timetable for extra language classes. In some ideas that may work in favour of exclusion and cases teachers tried to learn basic phrases in first inequality. encouraged Evaluation of teachers’ and pupils’ opportunities – certain activities and participation of bilingual education staff as decision makers children in projects and whole-day activities. interaction with The head’s encouraging action -Readjustment of parents –both indigenous and non. eager to cooperate with the staff children themselves and teachers interviewed. use of mediators and translations in In all cases. activities. Both open to changes. goals were the predominant ideas. 2004. 1987. raised demands for The head’s initiative changes in the structure and manipulation of The heads. In all schools teachers and headteachers In School B. Paik. namely the about the family status of their pupils and have a teachers who took the initiative. for the sake of human rights. interaction. took certain decisions. language abuse and quarrel and form the school environment in such a way between children with diverse ethnic backgrounds. so that the interaction of the language)… new arrivals every teachers could lead to their development and to week some are away for a improvement of the teaching procedure fortnight and they suddenly come (Leithwood & Jantzi. to show respect to promoted by the researchers too. due to being a secondary had particular measures and possibilities in front school. teacher attitude tendencies and using all excursions etc). 1988). common programme different approaches emerged. and find out better solutions to the problems that identified success in previous experience in Greece 66 . that this can be accepted by the pupils. in cooperation with the certain bureaucratic characteristics. For example in School D the head and operation and collegiality between the staff. 2007). stressing in stigmatized (both the teachers and the pupils) this way the existing phenomena of school failure was to spread around the children coming from (Marjoribanks. the children A even thought that the solution for not being feel isolated and distant from school. in the very first meeting of headteachers tendencies in and outside the school in a period for the implementation of the intervention when unity. the heads’ reactions: one group of teachers felt (Teacher. things were more tough as promotion of of them that could be applied. time it created problems particularly separating However. However looking any activities was based on the deputy-heads’ deeper in the school life. 1991. the headteacher tried to show that he was Ministry proved to be rather inadequate. I’m not trained in that arouse through participative models of decision- (teaching Greek as a second making procedure. 1990) up… I don’t know how to handle this… what to do in the supportive Staff attitudes–Culture of collegiality hours neither can the inspector or In all schools two different tendencies any colleague help me… I use were identified among the teachers. their mother tongue as the means of instruction. available. but sometimes in full picture of their living conditions. however the role of the cooperation with parents. This was a rather provocative way.. This affected of course the extend of making the One of the very first activities was the best of the teacher and pupil capabilities and collection of possible information about the school putting under scrutiny any effort for introducing environment and the children. For example. as the first human rights and at the same time to implement stage of the intervention programme. Symeou. school A) disappointed for being appointed to the schools. promotion of certain headteachers was crucial in handling these two pedagogical measures (projects. in School A suggestions language in order to enable communication for separate classes for particular pupils using (Valverde. Martínez-González & Corral. while the measures promoted by the D). It is They even complained about children playing important for teachers to be familiar with the football as they regarded the game as a source for different cultures.

now she works interactions as children from different groups elsewhere …in a bakery... I came pupils were encouraged to attend together here. Helen. (School B) Some friends speak Greek. The behaviours and participation in school life (Kiddle. whereas it to participate in the lesson…just seemed to affect their attitudes against schooling. but you know. in accordance with other I study at home … My mum insists research results (Lee & Walsh.they learn. I learned Greek. while at the same time certain bureaucratic I first went to another school. some the community. either as attitudes towards education or as and Turkish…” (School A) a vehicle for better life potentials. I play with older children.. Greek language lessons in order to improve their Greek Cypriot friends… (School A) language skills and work together for the publication of a school journal for distribution to Yes I have Russian friends. they are dirty on in the morning–even for the pupils who are “observers” for a Children’s fluency in Greek did not seem year. Children had formed their own views. they speak Greek… we play which seemed to be expressing a solution for the football… I learn (School B) language curriculum and the school impact in I want the school to speak Greek general... an characteristics and the headteachers’ reaction English school -I didn’t want to. but you speak with others an exercise book and I write would learn Greek… (School B) Turkish words for her… I did my homework. I don t like History… I like I had a friend. She had a university seem to play a significant role in relations and degree. they don’t have their no connection with what is going books with them. PROMOTING CLOSER TIES AND COOPERATION as well as in interaction with class mates during classes but not in the supportive measures: No. I am good at it.. proved to be helpful or act as obstacles in The other children didn’t want me promoting any initiative: in School D parents and I stayed for a year. I don’t have Gypsy friends. and this interaction should be used for wants me to study… (School B) educational profit.. Greek. I don’t. but not enough to influence their peer relations. Elli George. We played computers no need for so much together. She interact.. Diversity and racist attitudes could be found either between or within cultural In all schools. despite good intentions: 67 . Then. (School B) Above all. However. I learn from them emphasising thus both differentiation and unification: Relationship with the community and the parents – External assistance The Gypsies don’t know much Home context and especially the children’s Greek – let them… We should put attitude towards their parents’ involvement in the the Turkish Cypriots and the Greek school functioned as a platform for meaning and Cypriots in a classroom.g. I made friends. teacher would teach them Greek 2000). I want to… Andreas. financial problems at Cypriots too. If I don’t know this or I have many friends. there is homework.. 2002) does not on that.. We (the Russians) the Adult Education Centres and conflict between usually go together to the Luna the hours of the afternoon classes with parents’ Park or window-shopping …see working hours (e. Ethnicity. shift hours) led to cars… (School B) disappointment. examples of good practice groups: in taking advantage of parents could be identified.. for communication. I have no that I ask her or I go to the difficulty in Greek. She has Greek. I learned in teacher (School A) Greece before coming here. regarding the dominant language.. Children themselves discovered the well write too I like to see my intercultural dimensions of language learning friends. they are dirty… I just have one… They can attend the classes in the no others… they don’t do their afternoon. relations are those who work as a key factor in language learning: I like computers.

collegiality. so that they were not trapped needs and to help them move beyond. educational intervention. However.. Experience from the intervention 68 . At the same time Interviews and attitude investigation showed that investigation of children’s attitudes towards the pupils of different linguistic and cultural “others” showed that the majority of children were backgrounds can interact and cooperate. Interventions in school certificate-my father didn’t come. At the same time.You see. In both interested in having classmates or friends from the schools and the communities involved an other countries (89% and 92%. suggestions home context. teachers and parents are lingual) they experienced. themselves that should be encouraged and promoted by the bureaucratic characteristics of I want to come to school but no the educational system. It is worth mentioning that for organising school activities in front of the although the intervention project was completed. parents as part of the intervention programme the schools continue to organize activities along and cooperation with other stakeholders the lines followed during the intervention while (Municipality. respectively). culture. parent.g. if he doesn’t I’ll shout at negotiate about photocopies every him! (School A) time or buy on your own expenses the books… or look for the key (to In School B little steps were also made. and and heads realised that work with indigenous disappointing (Trainer. municipality authorities). enter the classroom) etc. activities initiated by with other bodies (e. teachers in educational and social exclusion situations. their headteachers. School D) parents should be a priority and should be promoted at different levels and in cooperation On the other hand. School D which were free of financial and bureaucratic pressure and depended on the head Discussion and staff initiatives proved to be a success. the purpose of the school and to become prepared Gathering children from different linguistic in accepting the policy of zones of educational or/and cultural backgrounds may be the first step priority the following year.. This is however with no great relationship feelings towards heterogeneity and cultural was absent as different attitudes between parents diversity were identified and the headteachers and teachers were identified while the played an important role in relating management headteacher’s policy was one of conflict rather of diversity and language issues to school and than that of co-operation. involvement of appeared during the implementation of this parents in seminars organised by the school. use of external support and My mother wants to –she doesn’t participation in decision making can act as the speak Greek (School A) basic measures. Interviews with the participants showed and their parents in improving their command of that success in all efforts depended to a large the Greek language. translation cultural diversity present in the schools as a of school announcements in English so that source of enrichment of the curriculum and the parents can be informed. informal meetings with activity repertoires of the schools. are all examples of these support to pupils of different language background actions. PROMOTING CLOSER TIES AND COOPERATION . as deputy-heads very disturbing. you cannot have a Yes I liked the “festival”. This should first be aware of both the children’s views may explain why children in School A did not show and the facilitating and restricting constraints interest in attending free mother-tongue language under which children operate.. they tried to get rid of aware of diversity.. cultural. Church) proved to one of the schools was chosen to be included in be a positive step and enabled parents understand the zone of educational priority. as well as despite the discontinuity (geographical. differentiation and language ethnocentric myths. Young children. are examples of actions that extent on how the school staff dealt with were present in the participating schools. Respect of the activities for the community. towards intercultural education but it does not children felt free to express their attitudes that seem to be enough. increased degree of sensitivity as well as negative In School A. my father language class and try to came too. in the activities of cultural background of all pupils and use of the the Parents Association of the school. Parents attending lessons and getting involved in Notwithstanding the obstacles that activities organised by the school. provision for bilingual parents. a number of significant involvement in the organisation of events and results have been observed. Broadening their learning classes as part of the whole-day school sense of belonging and solidarity with people from activities and the lower percentages in forming diverse cultural or/and linguistic backgrounds can attitudes about the other as classmates (61%) or start from initiatives of headteachers and teachers friends from other countries (79%).. Welfare Services. bureaucratic characteristics..

Computers. by cooperative work. Maths and effectiveness against pupils’ low performance and school life of all participants. monitored and 69 . education. & Gonzalez. health opportunities for cooperation (Reid & Young. 1994). interactions and material. in regarding culture as a dynamic school and the community (Lee. tried to make connections between all participants need to be further investigated. PROMOTING CLOSER TIES AND COOPERATION programme showed that looking for interaction manipulated so that educational goals for all with parents and children. 2006). set out work that is to be supported at all levels of Coleman. Fink. Neff. Such interventions in the school centres where the encouragement and curriculum and timetable encourage the basic development of learning can be implemented ideas of intercultural education for the locally and thematically. etc. Lee Manning. 1987) and parents and the evaluation of their cooperation and can be given the chance to familiarise with the collaboration. but it can move from “episodic” to “socially active” action initiate discussions and activities involving the (Banks. influence directly the activities in the classroom Parents can be a part of this process so that (West. the respect for communities can become strong elements of the human beings. may schools for the transformation of the school into a have been risky as it opened the -so far. teachers’ and children’ attitudes and mainly the ability to understand (Hargreaves & behaviours. Schools that handled and activities in which the ideas of interculturalism and approached parents with respect generated a participation are present. 1990. For example. effectiveness is achieved when external factors especially in the case of the secondary schools. Teachers’. 2000) and this can be The importance of the school leaders in all covered. classroom to the public and to criticism. project work daily the governmental provision and school life in multicultural society topics (Hochman. 1997). The aim of the schools is positive climate in the schools and led to changes not only the improvement of performance but in parents’. but steps taken forward proved that during the intervention related to children’s successful innovations can be encouraged by staff reactions and references for particular school and heads’ initiative in certain pedagogical subjects could be used as a starting point for methods. 1997). 2000. 1988. Cooperation among colleagues school environment and comprehend its function inside and outside the schools promoted by the and practice. Amanti. and gradual parents’ willingness to community to see the role of the school from a participate may have differentiated among different point of view. but it cooperation with other organizations for the eliminated negative and prejudice and it created development of programs on road safety. et al. the comprehension of their needs pedagogical action (Raschert. introducing games in pupils are indeed achieved. Efforts identified in the participating headteachers. as it was identified in the participating schools in the management of the participants and schools. 2000). data revealed schools. 2000) could be activities for teachers and parents and in promoted by familiarising the pupils with people explaining on how a stereotype is reproduced can from other cultural groups and by implementing be the first steps. aspect of life and in encouraging the local pupils. Schools and local development of the environment.g. in characteristics showed that the schools can be the Tambakis. working through lack of interest (Bernstein. social educational interaction by the structures of 1992). Greatest learning the Greek language (Zaga. the classroom. Diverse efforts identified in the schools that the educational system. Moll. The schools’ “relationship” with the diverse learning and experiences can be helpful to Pedagogical Institute was a first step forward to teachers and pupils (Bourdieu & Passeron. particularly in one school. encouraging free expression of Activities in school A and D showed that attitudes about History. In the same way the idea of presenting a and failures that were noticed and can be the first portfolio with the pupils’ work or school activities step in implementing intercultural education that can be regarded as an isolated action.) were feasible despite obstacles 1992).closed centre of social education for adults (e.

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PROMOTING CLOSER TIES AND COOPERATION The head’s The head’s Collegiality Culture Change of the teachers’ Initiative encouraging attitudes action Change of the teachers’ Actions – change in managing diversity in school context Head’s evaluation of the Coping with Involvement of educational staff teachers’ and pupils’ bureaucratic in decision making at Change of the pupils’ capabilities characteristics school/classroom level relations and attitudes towards school External Change of the parents’ Assistance relations and attitude towards school- change in home context The personnel’s attitudes Readjustment in Relationship organization with the community and parents 72 .