On Tuesday 27th April we hosted a webinar with Dame Julia Cleverdon Deputy Chair of the Fair Education Alliance where we launched our first charity impact report. With education experts including Janet Goodall of Swansea University we discussed our impact over the last year and set out to reimagine the role of parents in tackling long-term educational inequality. Watch the event in full…
The Institute for Fiscal Studies found that almost half (49%) of the disadvantage gap at age 11 is explained by parents’ own education, attitudes and behaviours. Compare this to just 14% attributed to school factors and it becomes clear why researchers have been calling for a fundamental rethinking of how our education system tackles inequality.
Moderated by Dame Julia Cleverdon, this event brought together education sector experts, funders, teachers and parents to explore how we can build a post-COVID education system in which every child is supported at home to fulfil their potential.
We reflected on a seismic year for home learning and set out to reimagine the role of parents in tackling long-term educational inequality.
The importance of parental engagement
Our CEO Tom Harbour discussed the stories that influence our work, as well as sharing our long-term vision for parental engagement in the UK. Research shows that parents facing disadvantage have the same love and the same hopes and dreams for their children, but many parents struggle to convert their good intentions into daily habits and routines in how they interact with their children. The fact that this leads to so much inter-generational inequality should be a national outrage, but there is little focus from policy makers on supporting parents. Why? Because working with parents is hard. Because working with parents means working deep in communities, getting your hands dirty with the whole range of complex challenges that disadvantage brings up.
Parents are an untapped resource. Covid has shown how much families can do, and we have heard of many families supporting their children’s education for the first time. By truly listening to all parents, not just the loudest and most involved, we can design solutions that break these barriers down.
A teacher’s perspective
Louise Kwa of Beckford Primary School discussed her experiences of lockdown learning as a primary teacher and Maths Lead, and how the Learning with Parents programme has benefited her school. She shared the experiences of two of her students, Alex and Samuel.
Alex’s parents were educated abroad and have experienced a lot of confusion in trying to adapt to the English education system, particularly in Maths. Alex’s father found that using Learning with Parents enables him to teach himself, and he was therefore better able to support her learning. He is now confident enough to adapt the activities and resources to Alex’s needs and interests.
During lockdown, Samuel’s mum had multiple responsibilities that made working one-to-one with Samuel very difficult. She found that the work set on Google classroom was too large a commitment. As she was already familiar with Learning with Parents, these videos and activities were more accessible. This was a common them amongst many parents at Beckford – it became clear that many of the children and parents enjoyed the Learning with Parents more than formal lessons and found them more achievable.
Why parents don’t need to feel bad about ‘lost learning’
We also heard from Dr Janet Goodall on the deficit narrative surrounding home learning. There has been much unhelpful discourse around ‘lost learning’ during lockdown. This discourse fails to recognise that learning doesn’t just happen in schools. Children will have benefited from having one-to-one support at home and will have gained different skills from those they might build at school.
Equally problematic is the term ‘achievement gap’, which puts the emphasis on students. A more helpful term is ‘educational debt’. We as a society owe our children a debt. We owe our children and our young people the best education we can give them. If there is an achievement gap, it’s because we are not doing our job properly.
There have been some silver linings to come out of lockdown in terms of parental engagement; there has been an increase in understanding between schools and parents, as well as increased recognition in the important role parents play. Moving forward, changes need to happen to make parental engagement an integral part of the education landscape. Parental engagement must be included in Initial Teacher Education and Continuing Professional Development.
Parents shouldn’t feel bad about lost learning, but we must not let this become a lost opportunity to change the landscape of learning, education and schooling.
Innovation in EdTech
Silvia Pau, Assistant Program Manager at Nesta, spoke about their EdTech R&D programme. EdTech tools have the potential to benefit disadvantaged students, but there are a number of barriers to overcome in equalising what EdTech offers. Learning with Parents was chosen to be one of the six organisations to be a part of this programme based on our scientific rigour and innovation. Read more about the programme…
Credit Suisse and Learning with Parents in partnership
Colin Hely-Hutchinson of Credit Suisse discussed why educational inequality is a focus for the foundation and why they chose to work with Learning with Parents. One of the foundations priorities is future skills, an area where Learning with Parents has a huge impact. Credit Suisse were attracted to Learning with Parents partly due to the inter-generational impact of our work, with both parents and children learning through our programme. Credit Suisse has not only provided Learning with Parents with grant support since 2018 but has also supported us through their Credit Suisse Family Network and HR support.
Empowering all families
Amy Mitchell, Chair of Trustees for Learning with Parents, shared highlights from Learning with Parents’ 2020 impact report. From releasing our programme for free to all UK schools during the first lockdown in March 2020, to successfully registering as a charity in June, this has been a pivotal year for our organisation. We worked with over 24,000 families, over double our previous amount. Read the report in full to find out more…