What parents really think about their children’s education

Everyone’s idea of a good education is different. So, in our efforts to understand what parents think about school life and education, Parentkind, an educational charity based in Tonbridge, carries out an annual survey of 1500 parents and carers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.  The findings shed light on their concerns and what they value when it comes to their child’s learning.

In our latest poll, questions were asked about emotional wellbeing; the cost of sending a child to school; how parents are participating in their child’s education and how they can share their views with school leaders. The results, some of which are published in this article, make interesting reading and could be used to start a conversation with your school on how parents can help shape school policies and improvement for the benefit of every child.

Emotional health and wellbeing

Young people today are faced with many challenges and pressures. Our research showed that three in five parents are worried about their child’s emotional wellbeing and mental health at school.  Stress relating to homework and exams, anxiety and bullying as well as the pressure to constantly engage with social media were reported to have affected their child.

In addition, over half of all respondents were worried about the school’s high expectations on their child, and nearly a fifth said their child had suffered from depression, rising to nearly a quarter of parents with children aged 16 or older.  Significantly however, over a quarter (27%) said they were not satisfied with the way their child had been helped by the school in this regard.

When asked about the attributes of a successful school, most parents identified their child’s happiness (55%) in the top three, followed by children enjoying learning (44%) and children learning positive behaviours such as resilience and self-confidence (41%).

The top four areas of school life in which parents would like a say include:

  • The curriculum

  • Pupil behaviour

  • Homework

  • Budgets and school costs

Funding issues

When it comes to parental contributions to the school fund, parents have told us they are giving more than ever before, with an average voluntary donation of £11.35 per month (up from £8.90 in 2017).

What’s more, they are coming under increasing pressure to pay for clubs, materials and events that used to be free. For example, some have been asked to pay to attend sports days and concerts, supply teaching equipment and, in a few cases, to supply essentials such as toilet paper.

Around half (49%) of all parents believe the pressures on school budgets have negatively impacted their child’s education.

Parental voice

Parents have always played a key role in their child’s education, whether as volunteers, PTA members, homework helpers, fundraisers, governors and in so many other ways.  Indeed, more than eight in 10 parents want to play an active role in their child’s education and describe themselves as supportive of their child’s school.

Despite this, our research found that two thirds (66%) of parents want schools to be more accountable to them with three quarters wishing to have a say on their child’s education at school.  Only half of parents believe their school listens to or takes action based on their views.

More encouragingly, when it comes to satisfaction levels, nearly three quarters (71%) of parents are happy about the overall quality of their child’s school with two thirds (67%) positive about the school’s effectiveness in communicating with them or in their ability to help parents support their child’s learning outside of school (62%).

  • Only 3 in 10 parents and carers report having been consulted on these key four issues,

  • 2 in 5 parents and carers say they have not raised issues, contributed ideas or offered feedback on matters that affect their child’s education at all in the past year.

What next?

Our research provides an interesting snapshot of the issues that matter to parents when it comes to their child’s school education. The positive contribution and their willingness to participate should be harnessed by schools, working in partnership to help every child reach their potential.

A consultative parent body where parents views are sought in an inclusive and representative way and where a broad range of topics can be discussed, is a good starting point, and parents should be encouraged to participate in their child’s education in whichever way they can and want to.

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