What the resource is:
This is a survey of published research reviewing changing patterns in the structure of families. The research identifies trends in parenting and caring for today's generation of primary school children. The report is divided into four sections; part one focuses on the changes in the structure and formation of the family. Part two focuses on parenting practices and assesses the impact of these on children's welfare and the conditions on which successful primary education may depend. Part three reviews the policy context of home-school relationships. Part four reviews the research into the home-school interface and the role of the home in supporting pupil learning. There is a concluding discussion of the main challenges for the primary school in managing approaches to the relationship between parenting, caring and education, and highlighting areas which would benefit from future research.
The aims of the resource:
The aim of the survey is to provide a critical summary of published research examining the changing patterns of parenting and caring over the past few decades. The study is limited to literature related to pre-adolescent young people. The roles and relationships of parents, carers and teachers in the home-school relationship are examined. The evidence is also reviewed on the efficacy and problems of different approaches in building this relationship.
Key findings or focus:
Factors identified as resulting in greater diversity of family, parenting and caring
The research identifies three main factors resulting in greater diversity of family forms and parenting and caring practices as follows:
- the reduction in the number of children born,
- the increase in the proportion of lone parents
- the increasing age at which women have their first child
Government Policy and home-school relationships
The research traces government policy on home-school relationships and parental involvement in children's education. The development of a home - school alliance is analysed from a post-war situation where education and the home were viewed as separate realms to the current view of parents and teachers working in partnership in their child's education. There is interesting discussion of the power balance between home and school and a relationship is drawn to research in the US by Epstein suggesting ways to empower parents and improve the home - school relationship. Further sociological analysis examines the influence of the home environment on children's success in education suggesting that social class does have an impact on educational success in that different home environments enable pupils to varying extents to ‘know the rules of the game' required to take full advantage of education. Research is also summarised that suggests that these differential effects may extend to ethnic groups also. In summarising research taking a broader view of parental involvement in learning, the key point is made that ‘parental involvement in the form of "at-home good parenting" has a significant positive effect on children's achievement and adjustment. (Desforges and Abouchaar , 2003, p4) The review suggests that parents can present a rich fund of learning to be utilised by the school but that current social complexity makes a ‘one size fits all' approach to parental involvement in school difficult. This is seen as being in opposition to government policy appearing to wish to formalise the parent school relationship by means such as home school contracts and standardised homework hour allocations to different stages of education.
Diverse family structures and home- school administration
The research concludes that as the structure of the family has become more complex, so too have home school administrative arrangements. This is accompanied by similarly complex family relationships with which teachers must be familiar and in which they must engage. It is suggested that ICT may have an increasing role to play in home school communication.
Working parents and carers and child care
The report's authors summarise that the school will continue to be an important centre for support for working parents and carers within their community. Complex working patterns will however present additional demands for child care provision outside the boundaries of the traditional school day. Flexible parent\carer working may also provide both opportunities and challenges for parental involvement in schooling with either more or less time available to spend with the child in school or at home.
The most challenging home circumstance is seen as being the increasing number of children living in relative poverty. The authors suggest that poverty continues to be a significant factor in the lives of many children and that it has an impact on both health and wellbeing and a child's ability to take full advantage of school activities, both financially and emotionally.
Further research is recommended into the lives of children including the ways in which complex family relations and the role of carer which many children undertake, impact on their education. The researchers observe that home-school relationships come down to relationships between individual parents and individual teachers and that both of these parties have the interests of the child at heart. Some educationists might consider this statement rather naïve in that it fails to take account of home / school conflicts that do arise for a variety of reasons and the effect of parental disaffection with their own schooling and subsequent lack of identification with their child's school.
The authors state that neither parents nor teachers are a homogeneous group and that the strengths and expertise of both groups need to be acknowledged in strengthening relationships. They conclude that there is already a great deal of support for children's learning in the home and the community and that teachers should take advantage of this by building more productive home school links. Further research as to how this can happen would be helpful.
The quality, authority and credibility of the resource:
This is research conducted by well-qualified educational researchers as part of a large scale research project funded by a reputable funding body. Its quality, authority and credibility are therefore excellent.
The implications for ITE tutors/mentors:
This is an important study for ITE tutors, mentors and students to be aware of as it places important educational issues within their sociological and policy contexts. Its implications are not limited to the primary phase and the material should be made available to colleagues working in the secondary phase equally. It would provide useful contextual reading for discussion on inclusion and home-school links. The complexity of contemporary family relationships and the tact and awareness required to engage with these families should be important aspects of teacher education.
The relevance to ITE students:
As stated above this research is equally important for ITE students. It could also provide the basis for students to conduct small scale research in their own placement school on a number of the issues raised such as:
- School policy on home school relationships
- School approach to parental involvement
- Steps taken to mitigate against social/ethnic differential home learning environments
- School approaches to using the rich fund of learning provided by parents
The authors state that they wish the report to contribute to the debate about English primary education. They welcome comments on anything it contains. Please write to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Students/mentors/lecturers might find it interesting to engage with this debate.
Other Contributor :
Felicity Wikeley, Tess Ridge and Maria Balarin
University of Cambridge
Article Id : 14194
Date Posted: 20/3/2008