Richard Garner: Teaching begins at home, not at school

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The success of pupils of Chinese origin in last year's national curriculum tests and GCSEs is to be applauded. Coupled with the showing by pupils of Indian origin, it shows that where there is a culture of learning in the home - as, by and large, there is in these two communities - the child flourishes at school.

Earlier this week, a report by UNICEF revealed UK pupils came bottom in a table highlighting the relative well-being of children in 21 Western countries. One indicator showed that their relationships with their parents were partly to blame.

It would be wrong to come away with the idea that it is all doom and gloom regarding the performance of white British children.

Their performance is not deteriorating - even though it may be tailing off in the national curriculum tests for 11-year-olds. What it does prove, however, is that if parents are persuaded to take more of an interest it will pay off.

Tony Blair often repeats his mantra that "education, education and education" are his top three priorities. In truth, his government has poured investment into education.

What the UNICEF report of this week and the ethnic breakdown published yesterday show is the problems cannot be solved by spending alone. Much more must be done in the community. Inviting parents to learn alongside their children could be a help.

David Willetts, the Conservative education spokesman, responding to the UNICEF report at the think-tank, Demos, this week, said it showed we need to invest better in the future generation. Too often under Labour, investment went on items that would bring a good headline - such as £1m on new technology that may only last four years, he said.

However, to get to the heart of the problem, the culture in too many families, where education is thought of as something that happens at school rather than something that can be helped in the home, has to be addressed.

If it is, then we may move a long way further down the road of delivering that world-class education service the Prime Minister so often talks about.