In the UK, not all children have good opportunities for education. Despite the focus on all schools, the Education Policy Institute recently found that children from disadvantaged backgrounds lag behind their peers by an average of nine months by the time they graduate from elementary school (EPI, 2020 year). This has been exacerbated by the impact of Covid-19 and school closures.
schools need Help from Parents
We cannot leave it to schools alone to break this link between family income and educational achievement. Only 14% of disadvantages at age 11 are related to what happens at school (IFS, 2010). This compares to 49% attributed to the parent’s own education, the attitudes and behaviors they display with their child. Therefore, parents have an important role to play in teaching and closing the achievement gap.
Parents should do the teaching, not the school
When talking about parental involvement, the focus should be on parental involvement in learning, not in the school, as this has the greatest benefit for the child (Goodall and Montgomery, 2014).
The program “Learning with parents” is aimed at the participation of parents in the education of children at home. We support frequent, positive and meaningful interactions in all families and sustain them over time.
Concentration on in The majority The destitute children
When we design programs and products without considering the barriers that disadvantaged families face, we will create solutions that only work for parents who are already involved. This threatens to widen the achievement gap. We need to focus on how we support disadvantaged families to enable their children to learn.
All parents want the best for their children, but some find it difficult to translate good intentions into daily habits and routines for interacting with their children (Kalil, 2020). We need to ensure that parents from the most disadvantaged backgrounds are motivated, empowered and able to reason.
Many factors influence parents’ motivation to participate in their children’s education. One factor is peer influence (Curry, 2015). Another is their child’s attitude, their relationship with practitioners, and awareness of their own exposure (Harris and Goodall, 2008).
Our program includes ‘parent champions’, a child reward scheme, CPD for practitioners and thoughtful messaging that targets each of these factors accordingly.
We also help ensure that parents are motivated through texting, based on research on the effectiveness of texting for parents, including the EEF study (EEF, 2016), as well as the University of Chicago PACT experiment, in which the frequency of reading texts increased by 2.5 times (Mayer, 2015).
Expanding opportunities Parents
For many parents, low confidence and poor academic skills make it difficult to support their children’s literacy (Kalil, 2015). We offer informative videos for children so that parents can upskill and learn the key concepts they need to support their children. We ensure that our content is as inclusive as possible. For example, we have adopted best practices for parents who use English as an additional language, such as using visual aids and highlighting key words (e.g. Premiere, 2019). Our research has shown that kids’ enjoyment is a key predictor of parental engagement, so we make sure our games are truly fun.
Use of technology
Teachers are encouraged to reflect on classroom practice, but they don’t know what happens at home. Surveys, which are often used to collect additional information, do not address this gap, as respondents tend to be parents with the most social capital and high literacy. Technology gives us the ability to capture real-time information about what is happening at home.
Our app collects important user interaction data and feedback such as time, ratings, comments and photos from the families we work with. As we focus on supporting disadvantaged children, we link this data to Free School Meal (FSM) status. This allows us to understand how parent-child interactions differ between FSM and non-FSM children. For example, we know that most teachers assign homework on Monday and Friday, but most parents do it on Sunday afternoon. Initial results also showed that children on FSM did their homework 30 minutes later in the day.
We share these thoughts at the classroom and school level. Feedback helps teachers track home learning, letting them know what their children are understanding and informing their classroom practice. We also use comments and site data to reflect and drive iterative program improvement. By doing this, we ensure that the most disadvantaged parents are motivated and empowered to support their children’s education.
Parents play a crucial role in facilitating learning. However, inclusive parenting is not easy. It is critical to continue to develop evidence-based strategies to promote parental involvement in learning, and technology can support this.
When considering parental involvement, the focus should be on parental involvement in learning, not the school.
When looking at parent engagement, we must clearly focus on the most disadvantaged parents and carers to avoid further widening the achievement gap.
The use of technology allows us to gain insight into the reality of parental interactions at home and what strategies motivate and empower parents to participate in their children’s education.
Pa Tom Harbor, Executive Director, Learning with Parents
Learning for parents, children and adults: Family learning policy in the 2020s
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