Parental involvement plays key role in children’s academic attainment, research shows

New research has shown how parental engagement has a positive effect on a child’s academic attainment – regardless of age or socio-economic status. 

The study, conducted by the Universities of Plymouth and Exeter, also highlighted areas of promise for how schools and early years settings can support parents in a way that improves their children’s learning. 

The work was commissioned by the Education Endowment Foundation and supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care South West Peninsula (PenCLAHRC).

The report showed that for school-aged children, home-school partnership is hugely important – especially where schools personalise communications about a child’s progress and make them accessible, for example, through text messages. 

The study also highlighted how family literacy interventions can help to boost younger children’s learning, and how summer reading programmes can improve school-aged children’s learning, particularly among families from more disadvantaged backgrounds.

The researchers made their conclusions by conducting a review of existing international studies on the links between parental engagement and students’ learning, and comparing the findings with survey responses from head teachers in over 180 primary, secondary and early-years provisions across England. They also conducted 20 interviews with school leaders and subject experts to provide further context and explore the survey findings in more detail. 

As well as the links between parental involvement and children’s learning, the study explored activities delivered in or by schools and early years settings that promote and support parental engagement, particularly for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The school-wide survey showed that the majority of the 183 schools involved (72 per cent) did not have a written policy in place around engagement applied to all parents/carers, but most respondents (80 per cent) did consider parent engagement to be the responsibility of all staff.

Lead author Dr Nick Axford, PenCLAHRC Associate Professor in Health Services at the University of Plymouth, explained that there was no one thing that schools should do to support parent engagement, but that there were areas showing promise.

“These findings from existing studies and new surveys are interesting, because they highlight the positive link between parental engagement and children’s academic attainment,” he said. “However, it takes time and planning to nurture and encourage parent support. Recommendations we would put forward include for schools to build parental engagement into their school improvement plans, and to work hard on establishing good communication with parents. The latter could even involve training and support for teachers on engaging with parents, especially as very little is provided to promote this within teacher training.” 

Dr Vashti Berry, PenCLAHRC Senior Research Fellow at the University of Exeter, said: 

“We recognise that schools and early years settings are working in a challenging financial climate, and that much more research on how best to support parents is needed. But school leaders recognise the importance of working with parents, and there are lots of practical suggestions in the Education Endowment Foundation guide that is based on our report, so there is fertile ground for improvement.”

Dr Jenny Lloyd, Senior Lecturer in Public Health at the University of Exeter, said: 

“School staff recognise that engaging parents in children’s learning requires the building of supportive and trusting relationships from the foundation stage all the way through to the end of secondary education. Schools need resources, systems and structures to create a continuity of care and education that involves parents.”

The full study, entitled How can schools support parents’ engagement in their children’s learning? Evidence from research and practice is available to view on the EEF website. 

The guidance for schools and early years settings that is based on the report is available to view on the EEF website. 

NIHR PenARC

NIHR ARC South West Peninsula (also known as PenARC) is the National Institute of Health Research's (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) South West Peninsula, and is a partnership between the Universities of Plymouth, University of Exeter and NHS and Local Authority organisations across Devon, Cornwall and Somerset. PenARC was first established as a CLAHRC in 2008 and is now part of a national network of 15 NIHR-funded ARCs.

The partnership supports and funds research with direct impact on patients’ health and the way in which NHS care is delivered, conducting research based on questions from those directly affected: doctors, nurses, therapists and, importantly, patients. The partnership has been highly successful in utilising match funding to access support for our research projects from other sources and external partners.