Ministers announced yesterday that parents will be able to pick up a new magazine in surgeries, supermarkets and post offices explaining how to support school work. They will also be offered leaflets with hints on how to teach arithmetic tables while shopping and how to turn catching a holiday flight into a lesson on teaching the time. A new website will have details about the curriculum, how to choose a school and educational days out.
A Mori poll commissioned by the Government of 1,000 parents of 11-year-olds showed that 85 per cent backed the Government's policy of half an hour's homework on each weekday. But 41 per cent said they wanted more practical suggestions for how to help children with maths. One-third worried that they might be "doing it wrong" when offering help. One in five parents feared that if they talk too much to their children's teachers they will be labelled as troublemakers. The website and the magazine include a checklist of questions to ask at parents' evenings.
The maths leaflet contains tips, puzzles and games designed to boost children's confidence in maths. It suggests learning tables by pointing to two packs or orange juice, three bars of soap, four packs of bread rolls, five slices of meat and six eggs. It also proposes that parents should show children how to work out the VAT on fish and chips during a trip to the local takeaway.
David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education, said: "The expectations that parents have of their children, the interest they show in their children's work and the way they support their child's learning are all important factors in helping to raise standards."
The website will allow parents to key in their town or village and then give them access to local information from performance tables and inspection reports. Any parents persuaded to go on an outing advertised on the website may find new government leaflets on, for example, Roman Britain, a national curriculum topic.
The poll shows that most parents find information supplied by schools is clear but a third of those from the three lowest social classes say that there is too much jargon.
Jacqui Smith, the Schools minister, said: "We don't want to encourage parents to take over their children's homework and do it for them. But we want them to support children, to ask them questions and to point them in the direction of information sources.
"Instead of dragging a whingeing child round the supermarket, we hope they will take the opportunity to do a bit of adding up."
About 28 per cent of parents have access to the Internet either at work or at home but schools and libraries will also be encouraged to provide access to the parents' website. Two-thirds of parents believe they are actively engaged in their children's education and that it is not just the school's responsibility.
The address of the parents' website is: http://www.parents.dfee.gov.uk
WHAT TO ASK ABOUT YOUR CHILD
n What is he/she good at?
n Is there anything he/she is particularly good at? n What is he/she finding hard? How can I help?
n Does my child try hard enough? n What can I do to help him/her try harder?
n Does my child join in when the class talks about things?
n Is my child happy at school?
n Has he/she made friends?
n Are you worried about my child's behaviour?
n Ask to see examples of your child's work.