Parents and families have the most direct and lasting impact on children’s learning and development. As the first educators of their children, they play a crucial role in their children's educational journey. A stimulating home environment that encourages learning as well as parental engagement in in-school activities are crucial for a child’s cognitive, social and emotional development. Playing with children or reading to them in their early years, helping with homework or discussing school life at home, taking part in parent-teacher meetings and other school activities will have positive and lasting effects on children's motivation to learn, their attention, behaviour and academic achievements. Parents' educational expectations for their children will also play a crucial role in shaping their children's learning. Building family-school partnerships and engaging parents as learning partners from the early years is therefore essential to improving children’s and young people’s development.
However, the relationship between schools, parents and families may be challenging. Many parents from disadvantaged backgrounds, while having high expectations and wanting the best for’ their children’s schooling, may not engage as they feel unfamiliar with the current school system and distant from the school culture and its 'language'. Some may be de-motivated by their own experience of failure at school, or may not feel able to support their children. Parents from migrant background may feel they lack the linguistic skills to communicate with schools, help their children and monitor their progress; they may be discouraged by a sense of distance between their values and culture and those of the host country, as represented by the school. Single parenting or jobs with long work days or that do not allow for flexible hours or may also hinder parental involvement.
On the other hand, teachers may perceive parents as passive, opportunistic or intrusive, or may lack time and experience to communicate, reach out to or engage with parents from diverse backgrounds. They may fear that involving parents will take their time and will be detrimental to their teaching duties. In some cases, communicating with and involving parents may not be sufficiently recognised as a key role for teachers and schools in encouraging educational success. Further, reasons behind distancing or inertia of some parents are not well understood by teachers and parents' roles in schools are not clear.
Effective family-school partnerships need to be based on mutual respect and acknowledgement of each party's values, assets and expertise. Parents and families from all backgrounds and educational levels need to feel welcome at school and be considered as resources. They need to be recognised and adequately supported as co-educators in their children’s learning, starting from an early age.
Research shows that a multidisciplinary approach, with involvement of parents, children, teachers and professionals is key to resolving behavioural problems of school children.
Find out more:
Claveria, J. V., and Alonso, J. G., ‘Why Romà do not like mainstream schools: Voices of a people without territory’, Harvard Educational Review, Vol. 73, No. 4, 2003, pp. 559-590
Downes, P., ‘Towards a Differentiated, Holistic and Systemic Approach to Parental Involvement in Europe for Early School Leaving Prevention’, Report prepared for the URBACT project PREVENT, 2014
Sheridan, S., Hoo Ryoo, J., Garbacz A, Kunz G., Chumney, F., 2013, ‘The efficacy of conjoint behavioral consultation on parents and children in the home setting: Results of a randomized controlled trial’, Journal of School Psychology, Vol. 51, pp. 717-733.