Home help: Parents play a vital role in learning

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The Independent Online

Getting parents involved in their children's learning, especially what you do at home, is known to make a real difference and potentially has a much bigger impact on a child's success at school than anything else.

Research has shown that the effect of parents and what they do at home to support learning can account for 80 per cent of a child's academic success. This compares to school being directly responsible for around 20 per cent of factors leading to academic achievement.

This is because parents are crucial in shaping a child's perception and approach to learning. As parents we are fundamental in determining whether or not our child aspires to learn and achieve, is well behaved within school and has good attendance. Often as parents we can also offer the one opportunity most children get for regular one-to-one learning.

The Engaging Parents to Raise Attainment project team at the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust (SSAT) has recently conducted a review of all the available research on parental involvement. Its findings strongly support the importance of parental involvement because:

* There is a powerful association between parental involvement and student achievement and attainment.

* Parental involvement in the form of at-home interest and support is a major influence upon educational outcomes.

* Parental involvement in learning activities in the home is most closely associated with a child's understanding and knowledge, particularly in the early years.

* Parental involvement is positively associated with students staying on in education and college enrolments.

The good news is that the Government has also begun to recognise the importance of parents. Alan Johnson, Secretary of State for Education and Skills recently said: "Parents and the home environment they create are the single most important fact in shaping their children's wellbeing, achievement and prospects."

The Every Parent Matters report was published this year. Although it contains nothing new, it does put all the Government policy that relates to parents and parenting into one document. It also provides recognition of the important role of parents.

The University of Warwick has recently published the results of its year-long study of over 100 parental involvement projects. The results reinforce the importance of parental engagement where parents and teachers work together to improve learning. The study found that schools that successfully engage parents in learning consistently reinforce the fact that "parents matter". A two-way relationship develops between the school and parents based on mutual trust, respect and a commitment to improving learning outcomes.

Further background to parental involvement will be available later this year when the NCPTA publishes the results of its own study conducted in partnership with the University of Warwick. This study specifically examined the role of parents' groups in helping to develop and deliver parental involvement schemes and gives a real sense of what is being achieved by PTAs at a local level. This is an important time for parental involvement - research has shown its value, and Government policy is beginning to provide support. Make sure you get involved.

Annette Wiles is policy and research manager at the NCPTA. Find out more about the University of Warwick's study at www.schoolsnetwork.org.uk

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