- Trust, good communication and active involvement in a child’s academic life ‘can help them succeed more than sending them to a good school’
By Laura Clark
PUBLISHED: 19:12 EST, 11 October 2012 | UPDATED: 19:13 EST, 11 October 2012
Youngsters do best when their parents help them with homework, emphasise the importance of education and attend school events, researchers found.
Children with supportive parents – even if they attend poor quality schools – tend to outperform pupils at good schools whose parents take little interest in their education.
The findings prompted the researchers to warn that improving social mobility cannot be achieved only by ‘fixing’ the school system.
Initiatives were also needed which aimed to enhance parents’ involvement.
Researchers examined information on 10,585 teenagers drawn from 1,000 randomly selected secondary schools in the US.
LIMIT THE TIME YOUR CHILD SPENDS IN FRONT OF TV, WARNS EXPERT
Limiting the amount of time children spend in front of a screen could have significant advantages for their health and wellbeing, a leading psychologist has said.
By the age of seven, a child born today will have spent a full year glued to screens, according to Dr Aric Sigman.
The average 10-year-old has at least five screens available to them at home, and over the course of childhood youngsters spend more time watching TV than they do in school, he said.
Many parents use devices as ‘electronic babysitters’, but all this screen time has been linked to obesity problems and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes, he warned.
Dr Sigman added that such extensive use could also lead to attention problems and other psychological difficulties.
The study considered their academic performance and the quality of parental involvement in their lives – so-called ‘family social capital’ – as well as the quality of their schools – ‘school social capital’.
Parents were considered to be passing on high levels of social capital if they regularly checked homework, talked about school with their children and attended parents’ evenings and other events.
These are thought to be ways parents pass on knowledge and values to their children.
Meanwhile, schools with high social capital ensured the classroom environment was conducive to learning and kept truancy and disruptive behaviour to a minimum.
They also offered plenty of extra-curricular activities and made regular contact with parents.
Teachers at these schools reported high morale.
The researchers, from North Carolina State University, found that while good schools did help to raise achievement, the influence of families was stronger.
Teenagers with high levels of family capital but low school capital tended to do better in exams than pupils with high school capital but low family capital, according to the study, published in the journal Research and Social Stratification and Mobility.
Dr Toby Parcel, who led the study, said: ‘While both school and family involvement are important, the role of family involvement is stronger when it comes to academic success.’
She said the findings emphasised the crucial role parents play in children’s education.
‘Our study shows that parents need to be aware of how important they are, and invest time in their children – checking homework, attending school events and letting kids know school is important.
That’s where the payoff is.’ Dr Parcel said attempts to ‘fix’ schools ignored decades of research highlighting the importance of families.
‘Our findings … suggest that efforts to increase social capital at school, such as initiatives to reduce class size or attempts to create parent-school programmes and ties, would probably have a beneficial effect on students,’ she said.
‘However we also find that family social capital has a stronger influence on child achievement than does school social capital.’
Parents heavily involved in their children’s education are often called ‘helicopter parents’, because they hover around, or ‘tiger mothers’, because they push them to achieve high academic standards.
The research suggests the approaches are, at least in part, vindicated.