Need more than just glorified babysitters

At the crux of the (so far) cut-price policy of extending the
school day is a naive assumption that most adults like children.
So, they can stimulate a group of children for three hours a day by
doing what comes “naturally”. Big mistake.

The longer school day offering creativity, sports and the
investment of an adult’s time and attention could be a
life-changing opportunity for some deprived children – but only if
staff are well-trained and receive pay that reflects the importance
of what they are undertaking. They are far more than glorified

The longer school day also raises another equally important
challenge. If most parents are off the school premises from 8am
until 6pm, how are some to be encouraged to become involved in
their children’s development?

In a paper for the Centre for Analysis for Social Exclusion, Darcy
Hango asks whether parental involvement can offset the effects of
childhood poverty on education.(1) The short answer is that
involvement is not sufficient to cancel out the detrimental effects
entirely – but does have a major influence.

Hango measured involvement by parental interest as assessed by
teachers as well as the parents’ response to a question on how
often they go on outings such as walks, picnics and visits.

In Hango’s research, parental interest had a stronger effect at age
11 (especially if manifested by fathers) in reducing long-term
poverty than interest at 16. Significantly, parental involvement in
school as rated by the teacher had the greatest impact on the
long-term achievement of the child.

If a mother took a child on outings infrequently at the age of 11,
that had “a slightly stronger impact” than the lack of father
outings, increasing the probability of the child gaining no

Hango concludes that a father’s interest in school and a mother’s
interest in outings and other activities can reduce the long-term
effect of childhood poverty. The challenge for children’s trusts;
Sure Start and other multidisciplinary initiatives is how to make
it happen? How do you give some parents the confidence to know that
when it comes to education and their children’s life chances, even
without much cash in their pocket, their contribution may prove to
be priceless?

(1) Hango, Parental Investment in Childhood and Later Adult
Well-Being: Can More Involved Parents Offset the Effects of
Socio-Economic Disadvantage? Paper 98, 2005

Yvonne Roberts

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