Home and school literacy practices of Somali children in year one of primary education: an analysis of the relationship

Student thesis: Phd


Establishing effective home-school relationships between teachers and parents is undisputed in the literature as key to a child's educational success. This is regarded in the field as especially important for children from diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds whose parents may not necessarily speak fluently the dominant language of their local school. The potential of multilingual children's home practices for strengthening the home-school relationship and for developing the manner in which they are taught at school has been the focus of much research adopting a "funds of knowledge" methodology over the last thirty years. Many studies in this field have focused on the alignment of home and school practices and the manner in which they fit together to provide meaningful and relevant learning opportunities for children at school. However, little attention has been paid to the contradictions inherent in the home-school relationship and the manner in which these can be conceptualised as drivers for change. This thesis takes an activity theory approach to identifying the contradictions between home and school practices and examines ways in which these can be surfaced and resolved into concrete, transformative actions. Using a context of young Somali children's home and school literacy practices, the aim of this thesis is to critically examine the dialogic relationship between them with a view to establishing opportunities for developmental work at school. To do this, I bring into dialogue various home and school literacy practices using the qualitative research methods of parent-teacher photo- elicitation interview dialogue, reflective discussions and teacher-study group work. Firstly, I use the concept of Bakhtinian dialogism as a methodology for connecting the voices of the home and the school. Secondly , I apply a conceptual framework of activity theory to an in-depth analysis of expansive learning opportunities for teachers arising from parent-teacher dialogue. This is driven by the identification of multivoicedness, historicity and contradictions within and between the activity systems of home and school practices emerging from such dialogue. Finally, I explore the extent to which teachers working collaboratively as a study group are able to mobilise their collective agency in order to bring about concrete changes to their school practices as a result of what they have learnt from parents. The conclusions drawn by this thesis are that in order to fully understand the relationship between home and literacy practices, it is first necessary to address the contradictions between them. We also need to understand the power of teacher collective agency to bring about change in relation to the authority of school policy and curriculum. I argue that creating spaces at the home-school boundary in which dialogue about home and school literacy practices can take place between parents and teachers is a vital first step towards establishing the potential for transforming school practices for teaching language and literacy to multilingual children.
Date of Award1 Aug 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorJulian Williams (Supervisor), Laura Black (Supervisor) & Steven Jones (Supervisor)


  • teacher study-groups
  • literacy
  • Somali families
  • contradictions
  • home-school relationship
  • funds of knowledge

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