New research shows the power of parenting "booster" classes in school

Francis Gilbert's picture
Demos, the left-wing think-tank, has just published some important research which shows how effective parenting classes in schools can be; raising attainment, improving behaviour, building self-esteem. "It's time to be honest about what good parenting involves..." makes a number of recommendations but the most salient ones about schools are these (I quote directly from the report):
Develop a second tier of screening for primary school children

When children first arrive at primary school, a diagnostic screening tool should be used to assess their emotional and behavioural development and cognitive and linguistic development. In cases where parents have not engaged with early years services, it is likely that some children may have problems that have previously gone unnoticed. This assessment should provide an opportunity to engage parents and identify if there are any problems in the parent–child relationship or in other areas of the parents’ lives that the school could provide support with.

Ensure that every primary school has a parent liaison officer

The previous government created the expectation that schools should offer support for parents as part of their responsibility for supporting children’s broader social and emotional well-being as well as their academic learning. Primary schools should continue to provide a designated member of staff such as a parent support adviser or learning mentor who is responsible for engaging parents, identifying any support needs. To support this role,

parent liaison officers should be trained in an appropriate evidence-based parenting programme.

Develop a parenting ‘booster’ class

Government should commission the development of a parenting class aimed at parents when their children first start primary school. This would focus on helping parents to maintain and update good parenting approaches as their children grow up and would provide an important opportunity for the school to establish a relationship with parents early on. Schools could train either their teachers or parent liaison officers to deliver evidence based programmes, or could commission this service from voluntary and community sector organisations.

The report goes on to stress the great results of the excellent programme, Families and Schools Together, FAST, which is really helping families of all backgrounds live happier and more productive lives.

Why was none of this in the recent Education White Paper? This government wants to give "pushy" parents the money to segregate their children from poor ones, but is doing nothing to address the real problems that are there.
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Alan's picture
Thu, 24/03/2011 - 22:44

Demos have hit the nail on the head regarding diagnostic screening in primary school. Clinicians have been saying for quite some time that there needs to be ongoing monitoring of children born in difficult circumstances who are susceptible to neurological conditions so that the early signs of ‘hidden’ disabilities can be identified from the outset of education.

For example, it has been noted that ex-premature children can suffer subtle delays in cognitive development that may only become apparent as the curriculum becomes more challenging: Marlow, N., & Johnson, S. (2007). What the teacher needs to know. Archives of disease in childhood, 92(11), 945.

Francis Gilbert's picture
Fri, 25/03/2011 - 09:55

You are absolutely right Alan. I think this screening will be a great deal more important than the Reading test for 5 year olds, which will put children under unnecessary pressure and stress.

Shane Rae's picture
Fri, 25/03/2011 - 11:47

Well this is simply spot on. If Gove paid attention to nothing else, he should grasp this immediately. He needs to stop thinking of school and home as isolated elements if he hopes to ever experience the success he points to in the PISA countries.

This type of screening would be exponentially more valuable than a synthetic phonics test at age 6.

Why do these things seem to obvious to everyone but Gove?

Alan's picture
Fri, 25/03/2011 - 22:24

I agree Francis, unnecessary stress should be avoided at all costs. Incidentally, a report by Graham Allen MP entitled “Early Intervention: The Next Steps” provides interesting reading on what can be done 0-5 to detect and resolve social and emotional difficulties before they become hard-wired. Intergenerational transmission of underattainment is recognised to be influenced by the primary caregiver-infant relationship, and a critical period of brain development is noted as a window of opportunity for providing emotional capability to be school ready by five:

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