This essay is going to investigate whether parental involvement within a childs education has a positive or negative impact on the child and their education. This will include looking at the parental involvement within education and how the government feel about it and how the government deal with parental involvement and what educational provisions have been set out for parental involvement for all those concerned.
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Parental Involvement has been on the Labour Government’s agenda since they came into power in 1997. New Labour “has not been short on appeals to return to ‘family values’, particularly when the issues of crime, parenting and education have been the topic of discussion” (Mooney et al, 1999:6). In 1997, when New Labour came into power, there were suggestions to create parenting classes for those parents who need help with their child’s behaviour, education and also to help themselves become better and more pro active parents within all aspects of their child’s life. Jack Straw wants “parenting classes to be accepted in the same way as ante – natal classes, through such classes will involve compulsory counselling and guidance classes for parents who are struggling as parents and for parents ordered by the courts to receive help dealing with their children” (Mooney et al, 1999:6). Jack Straws wishes are significant because when a child is in a happy and supportive home environment then the child is more likely to enjoy school and be more successful in their education, which will lead to happier children.
The importance of parents in the education of their children is not a new concept. Parents have been their children’s first educators since prehistoric times. “The first formal parent education classes occurred in The United States in 1815, concerns about children’s development come from many levels including women’s associations, colleges, parent cooperatives, government and schools” (Berger, 1991:209). Education was used to enlighten middle – income families as well as to help mainstream immigrants and the underclass parents. “In recent times the focus on parental involvement emerged during the 1960’s with provisions, such as Head Start, Home Start and Follow Through – USA” (Berger, 1991:209). This continued in the 1980s and 1990s, though there were still concerns, this time about poorly educated pupils, exclusion, truancy, teenage pregnancy and poverty. These issues emphasize that parental involvement within a child’s education is essential in order to have pupils who are fully engaged in their education and schooling.
In more recent times, there are different stereotypical versions of parents and families; there are single parent families, same sex families, the ‘traditional’ families. There is also many ways in which parents and families can get financial support from the government, for example child tax credits, child benefits, CSA. As well as that, there are many different facilities for parents to use if they need to go back to work, such as childminders, family support and nurseries. There is also support and provisions available to benefit both children and parents. Parents can put their child into some type of education for example private nurseries or childminders from as young as 3 months, for parents who had to go back to work. When this happens then parents can apply for childcare vouchers to help them with childcare costs. From the age of 3 until the age of 4 children get 12.5 hours, these are provided by the Labour government and offered by the Local Authorities (LA) so again parents can place their child in nursery or preschool from the age of 3 and give them a head start and get taster ready for school. In 2007, the government introduced the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) provision, which was a combination of the Foundation Stage and Birth to Three Matters provisions. The EYFS began in September 2008. The EYFS is “based around four themes, a unique child, positive relationships, enabling environments and learning and development. The positive relationship theme is to enable the children to become strong and independent, from a base of loving and secure relationships with parents” (DFES, 2008). The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) is also linked to a supporting programme called the Parents as Partners in Early Learning Project (PPEL). The Parents as Partners in Early Learning Project began in October 2006; “the project team undertook an audit to review current provisions with an initial baseline audit of policies and practices across 150 LAs (Local Authorities) in England”. (DCSF, 2007). From the age of 4 until the age of 16 or 17 for new secondary school pupils from September 2008, children have to by law either go to school or be in some type of full time education for example home schooling. If the child does not attend school or if they are not in some kind of full time education then the parents will be punished. This could be by a fine or it could even be imprisonment. According to the DCSF (2009) “parents should support school by ensuring that their child attends school, if they do not then the parents can face fines between £30 and £150 and for those parents who continue to let their children miss school, the maximum possible is already £1,000 per parent per child and they could also face up to three months imprisonment” (DCSF, 2009).
For many parents, they like to be involved with their child’s education in some way. Parental involvement is when a child’s parent or parents get involved with their child’s education and also work in partnership with their child’s school. According to some researchers like Desforges et al (2003:5) “parental involvement did not have to be parents being in direct contact with their child’s school, but could be a ‘naturally occurring parental involvement’ like good parenting at home Parental involvement takes many forms including good parenting in the home, including the provision of a secure and stable environment, intellectual stimulation, parent-child discussion, good models of constructive social and educational values and high aspirations relating to personal fulfillment and good citizenship; contact with schools to share information; participation in school events; participation in the work of the school; and participation in school governance”. (Desforges et al, 2003:5)
According to Mackinnon et al (1995:26) the 1967 Plowden Report – “based on extensive research, it concluded that parents; attitudes to education were of supreme importance in influencing children’s educational success – more so than the parents’ educational or occupational status, than material circumstances at home and at schools themselves”. Mackinnon et al (1995:26) “continues the concept of greater parental involvement was favourably received and this involvement has increased in the year since Plowden”. This shows that parental attitude whether negative or positive has an impact on their child’s education, because if a parent has a negative impact on education because they had a poor, unsuccessful or appalling experience of education, then they are more likely to show a negative or very little interested in their child’s education, which in retrospect their child will more than likely have a negative attitude towards education. It is also shown that children perform better when a parent shows interest in their child education according to research carried out on the attainment in Secondary Schools by Feinstein et al (1999) “found that children of parents showing high levels of interest in their schooling can progress between 15-17% more in maths and reading between the ages of 11 and 16 as compared to pupils whose parents showed no interest”.
There are many different policies and legislations on parental involvement, which start from around the 1980’s. Most of these legislation and policies are mainly in favour of parents as consumers of education and parents as partners in education, these policies and legislation are; The 1980 Education Act, this Act gave the “Parents the right to choose the school they wanted their child to go to, although the LEA could refuse on the grounds of inefficient use of resources (and parents could appeal), parents were given the right to be represented on school governing bodies, parents on such matters as criteria for admission, exam results, curriculum, discipline and organisation.” (Mackinnon et al, 1995:59). When Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minster, she created these labels as schools are producers and parents are consumers, because as parents you look at what school is best for your child or best in the league table is that area, and something parents actually move to an area of a school that they want their child to go to in order to be inside the school boundaries. This is the same as if you were going shopping clothes, etc when you’re shopping you tend to look for the best quality, price, etc and the shops that you buy from are the producers as they are providing that item you. Same with school, they try to ‘sell’ their schools to parents by prospectuses, open evenings, league tables and Ofsted.
The 1988 Education Reform Act gave the parents more power, “Parents may send their children to any school that has room for them, provided that it caters for their age and aptitude. Parents could vote in a secret ballot to opt out of the school from the LEA finance and control and be given ‘grant maintained’ status” (Mackinnon et al, 1995:62) and finally the 1991 Parents Charter give even more choice for parents, in this charter parents were promised five key documents. These documents were a report on their child’s progress at least once a year, regular reports on their child’s school from independent inspectors, performances tables for local schools and finally an annual report from the school governors.
The most important policy for parents was the 2005 White paper; this is an important paper because it puts parents and their child at the heart of the school. The White Paper suggested “that parents receive regular, meaningful reports during the school year about how their child is doing, with opportunities to discuss their child’s progress with their teachers; parents have the chance to form Parent Councils to influence school decisions on issues such as school meals, uniform and discipline, such Councils will be required in Trust schools” (DCSF, 2005:9).
There are many ways in which parents can be involved with their child’s education from before they even start school, by choosing the right school for them to go too, and once the child is at school, their parent or parents can be involved in many different ways with their child’s education.
Ball (1998) came up with seven different ways of parental involvement; “these varied from decision making and management of school – parents and community representatives participate in school governing bodies, parent/teacher associations and advisory committees, to school support for learning at home – schools may help families to develop learning at home to help in turn the child’s learning in school” (Ball, 1998).
There are two main ways of involvement, in which a parent can be involved in their child’s education; these are formal involvement and informal involvement. The more formal ways of involvement are for parents to be involved in Parent Teacher Association (PTA) – which promotes partnership between pupils, parents and teachers and local authorities and encourages parents to support their children’s education. Also being a parent governor at a child’s school is also a formal involvement, because as a parent governor, they can make a valuable contribution to the running of their child’s school. The informal ways of a parent being involved in their child’s education, are by attending awards evenings/days, attending parents, career and option evenings, also meeting with their child’s teacher(s) and also parents coming into schools to help with reading time or fund raising events.
Parents can be directly involved with their child’s education by helping their child with their homework every day or by talking to their child’s teacher on a regular basis. Parents can also be involved by volunteering to help out with activities such as fundraising, school events, or even being a part of the actual classroom by helping out with any reading schemes available in a child’s school. Parents can also be on their child’s school governing board as a parent governor.
The government and LEA’s have also funded different opportunities for parental involvement and parent school interaction; examples of these are “The Home School Agreement. Home-school agreements can raise standards and contribute to school effectiveness by enhancing partnerships between parents and teachers. The processes involved in introducing and reviewing the agreement will clarify what the school is trying to achieve, and the agreement will set out the role of the school, parents and pupils in this vital partnership. Providing that staff, pupils and parents have been consulted effectively when drawing together the agreement, it should successfully build on existing working relationships between home and school. The partnership promoted by an agreement should result in; better home-school communication, parents and teachers working together on issues of concern, parents supporting and helping their children’s learning at home more effectively, the identification of issues that need to be addressed through the School Development Plan. The clarification of roles and responsibilities in a home-school agreement, supported by effective home-school policy and practice, should generate high expectations, parental encouragement and support, and strong home-school links” (DCSF 2008).
Parental involvement does not just benefit the child, but it can also benefit the school and the parents. The ways in which parental involvement can benefit the school are; that it reduces workload and pressure of the teachers and management staff, more enrichment activities can be provided which can boost the curriculum and the school. Parent/school interaction. The benefits for the parents are; reduced barriers between parents and the school, parents can feel and achieved self confidence and self worth, parent involvement may encourage parents to go back to education themselves, parents can monitor the work level in which their child is at, parents can also develop the feel for the school community and life and finally parents can get to spend some quality time with their child without even know they have.
The issues of parental involvement are because of many factors. Parental involvement is mainly voluntary you cannot always rely on the parents, parents can or may cause problems for the teacher, parental volunteers may need to get CRB checks done on them because of the Ofsted’s rules on safeguarding children in educational settings, which may make offended some parents, there is also a lot of paper work involved for the school, and CRB checks can take as long as six weeks to process. The most important issue of parental involvement is that not all parents can help or support their child as they may not have the skills, this can make some parents who want to be involved within their child’s school inadequate.
Even though many parents want to be involved in their child’s education, they do not for a variety of reasons or because of boundaries, the many four main issues for parents not to be involved in their child’s education are skills, class, gender and ethnicity.
Skills, Knowledge and understanding is one of the main four boundaries because of the poor levels of educational achievement and skills development of some parents, resulting in mistrust of education and difficulties in engaging with the education process on behalf of their children. A knowledge defect in some groups of parents, for example, little knowledge of the importance of children’s games, nursery rhymes and traditional stories in developing children’s learning and the lack of knowledge of the local educational opportunities available for them and their children.
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Another boundary is social class. The words ‘Social Class’ are used to describe how different segments of the population may be grouped together. These groups are considered to share roughly the same level of resources and similar styles of living. Class membership is generally indicated by the use of the Registrar Generals’ (RG) Scale of five social or occupational categories, though other systems of classification of socio – economic groups are used. The main dividing line is between manual (working class) and non – manual (middle class) occupations, although it should be noted that the range of lifestyles and material wealth within these two groups can vary considerably. “There are four main groups that define social class, these are; upper class – made up of between 5 and 10 per cent of the population, including company directors, financiers, senior civil servants. As a group the upper class own a substantial part of the nation’s wealth. The upper middle class, these are made up if 25 -30 per cent of the population, including professionals, senior managers and those running small businesses. The groups are sometimes referred to as the professional – managerial class. Lower middle class, is made up of 35 – 40 per cent of the population, including white – collar workers who are employed in shops and offices. This group may be referred to as the personal service class and the final class is the working class, this is made up of 35 – 40 cent of the population, including manual workers who may be skilled or unskilled, working in heavy industry, manufacturing, transport or agriculture” (Trowler 1995:139). Social class has a huge influence on which school a parent chooses to send the children and also shapes the relationship between parent and school. In the 1959 Crowther Report it states “that the extensive research that was commissioned confirmed earlier findings about the relationship between fathers’ occupational status and pupil’ educational attainment. The higher the father’s status, the greater the child’s chance of attending a grammar rather than a secondary modern school, though the occupational group ‘skilled manual workers’ was so large that their children were by far the largest single group in all types of school. It was argued that there was considerable ‘wastage’ of talent and much attention was paid to the ‘neglected educational territory’ of pupil who left school at 15 to follow craft or technical, rather than an academic career.” Mackinnon et al (1995:23). Parent’s social class has become a boundary within parental involvement within a child’s education, it is believed by some that if you are in a lower social class, you are more likely to fail, drop out and underachieve because that’s what is expected of them, also some parents from lower social class may feel intimidated by those parents from a higher social class. According to Douglas (1964) “working class parents do not value education. Parents who are most interested in their children’s education come mainly from the middle classes”. Parents from a lower social background may not have received a good education so they do not have the skills to help their children. Also parents from a lower social class may not be able to afford to take time of work to help out, as they need the money to live and provide for their children
Another boundary is gender. The words ‘Gender’ refers to the differences between men and women. Gender has been a big issue within education for many of years, in the 17th and 18th centuries education for girls was at a fairly low standard, but increased in the mid 19th century when all children has the right to attend school.. In the 17th and 118th centuries, education was only aimed for rich boys and young men and they were the only children allowed to go to school, while the girls and young women had to stay at home with their mother and do housework and look after their family. When females were allowed to attend school, females were not allowed to do many subjects from the curriculum. They had to learn needlework, etc.
The males on the other hand got to learn subjects such as metalwork and engineering and also languages such as Greek. Since the 1975 Sex Discrimination Act both male and females can do the same subjects. This Act “prohibited sex discrimination in admission to schools, appointment of teachers (with exceptions for single sex schools) and careers advice and stipulated that neither girls nor boys should be refused access to any course, facilities or other benefits provided solely on the grounds of their sex”. (Mackinnon et al, 1995:57). Today’s boys are the students who are underachieving, “twice as many boys as girls achieve below level 3 in English in Key Stage 2” (DCSF, 1994). Gender is an issue when it comes to parental involvement because it is mainly the female parent or the guardians who looks after those children who gets involved with their child’s education. “Currently there is considerably lower participation by fathers than by mothers in schools and in family learning initiatives” (Clawley et al, 2004:3). This could be for a number of reasons, it could because they are a single parent family, it is also possible that the father may have to work or cannot take time off work, it is much harder for men to be involved with volunteering at schools because they may be ask to have a CBR check done, even through both males and females have to have them done now.
The final boundary is ethnicity. What is meant by the term, ethnicity refers to the sense of shared cultural identify which binds a community together. It is used to distinguish one community from another and can be the basis for collective action by and conflict between communities. Ethnicity is an issue within education because many of the pupils from ethnic groups are underachieving, and most of them are boys. Figures shows that on entry into preschool, children of White UK heritage have the highest mean score in cognitive skills (verbal and non verbal), with the lowest scores being recorded for Pakistani children. Difference in scores between ethnic groups are reduced when the factors of parents’ educational and occupational status is taken into account. Bangladeshi, Black and Pakistani pupils perform less well than other pupils in the early key stages. Pupils for these three ethnic groups also tend to achieve significantly less well by the end of compulsory education and the per cent of these ethnic groups completing further/higher education such as college and university is even lower. “Only thirty – seven per cent of ethnic minority students get a first or upper second degree compared with 53 per cent of white graduates”. (National Statistics, 2001) Students from ethnic groups are underachieving because they are at a disadvantage when it comes to learning because they may not speak or only speak very little English. Students from ethnic groups may have a different type of learning and their culture may be different to the culture in England also the way of teaching in England.
There are a number of policies and legislations in force such as the 1981 Rampton report, which states “the main requirement, as they see it, was for a change in attitude in the community at large towards acceptance of ethnic minorities. In specifically education matters, stress was laid on both initial and in service training of teacher to attune them to the needs of ethnic minority groups and to improve their understanding of multicultural approach to education” (Mackinnon et al 1995:37), the Rampton Report was then replaced with the 1985 Swann – Education for all Report, this report was almost eight time longer than Rampton and it also included the above (from Rampton’ Report) and more such as “the effectiveness of racism awareness training should be investigated, It’s further recommended that greater effort should be made to employ and promote teachers from ethnic minority groups, though without positive discrimination or lowering of standards” (Mackinnon et al, 1995:39).
There was also the 1976 Race Relation Act this act prohibited discrimination on the grounds of race in admission to schools, appointment of teachers, careers advice, access to facilities and the award of discretionary grants. Positive discrimination in favour of disadvantages racial groups (ethnic groups) neither is nor normally allowed e.g. in recruitment or promotion. In some closely defined circumstances, however, where it can be shown that a particular racial group has a special need with regard to education or training access to facilities may be restricted or allocated first to its members, this act was amended in 2000. The reason why ethnicity is an issue when it comes to parental involvement is quite simply the same issues as why children from ethnic groups are underachieving. Parents from ethnic groups may not want to or cannot get involved with their child’s education because of language problems, lack of skills i.e. poor English, reading maths, ICT skills. Parents may feel threatened by the school or teacher and especially other parents from other ethnic groups. Parents may not be able to afford to take time off work or may have other younger children to look after.
The government is doing to overcome the above boundaries and many other boundaries There are many different initiatives that the government, LEA’s Schools, local communities and university have set up in order to overcome these boundaries that parent may have when it comes to parent involvement in their child’s education. The department of Education have supported and sponsored many different parental involvement initiatives like the Home School Agreement. The Millennium Commission set up Clubs called the Clutch Club, these clubs are set up to ‘help parents learn Information and Communication Technology (computer skills). “Set up by the Millennium Commission one of the National lottery good causes, the Millennium Awards, these are grants to help individuals develop their interests whilst at the same time putting something back into their local community. The Open University and Living Achieve Awards Scheme aims to encourage and to enable parents of school children to gain new skills in ICT and an understanding of their use for teaching in their children’s schools. It has already involved around 300 parents with children at school in and around Milton Keynes” (DCSF, 2008).
In Nottingham there has been a project set up to help parents from ethnic group, called AMBER, which stands for Adult Minorities Breaking Educational Restrictions, helps families from ethnic minorities gain a better understanding of the education system within the UK and provides guidance for them. The project, launched in 1995, began by working mainly with Asian and African-Caribbean parents but has since been expanded to include other groups in the City and County of Nottingham who have been at a disadvantage when it comes to participating in school life. The project aims, “to allow and support parents to become involved in their children’s education, to provide the opportunity for school-based adult learning and to train parent support workers to facilitate these aims. AMBER “works with parents who participate informally through fundraising and general school support activities, social events, etc. and more formally through in-class help, governorship and parent consultations.” (DCSF, 2006). If program’s like these continue to develop all over the UK and achieve the goals they want and need to achieve the boundaries that are stopping the parents from being involved within their children’s education, will no longer be a huge boundary stopping them.
Some researchers who believe that some parents use the fact that there are boundaries such as social class to hide behind but in fact they are not really interested or have time to be involved in their child’s education. The researchers in question are Douglas (1964) and Newson (1989). Douglas (1964) argued “that working class parents do not value education”. Newson (1989) continues by suggesting “that middle class parents are measurably more child centred than working class. However figures show that 80 per cent of working class parents in Nottingham were actively helping their children with reading” (Newson 1989). Other researchers would argue that parents do not hide behind risks and barriers when it comes to parental involvement. Blackstone et al (2004) argued that “working class parents do care as much as middle class parents, but working class parents felt less confident about dealing with schools”.
It is important for parents to be involved in their child’s education, as it shows them how interested they are in what the child is doing and learning at school, which builds up self esteem. However much time a parent puts into their child and their education all count towards being involved, from volunteering at their child’s school on a regular basis, to helping them with their homework when they ask for help, to most importantly to ask them what they have done at school each day, because this shows the child that the parent are showing an interest within their education. Even though there are boundaries that some parents need to overcome, these can be overcome with the help and support of the government and the child’s school. Also additional research needs to be carried out in order to address how educational initiatives and policies impact on parental involvement and pupils. On a more local level the importance of effective communication needs to be addressed. Its improvement would be a great benefit to parents, education professionals and especially the pupils, as this will help with the pupil’s educational engagement, knowing that they have support at all angles from school to home.
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