Media Release

MPs call on government and Ofsted to do more to boost parental engagement in their children’s education

The Social Market Foundation’s (SMF) cross-party Commission on Inequality in Education has called on the government and Ofsted to consider how they can help schools and other educational institutions to engage parents with their child’s learning, including increasing support for parents in helping children to read and enabling better feedback on parental engagement.

In a new report, Family Matters: The role of parents in children’s education attainment, the Commission argues that government should fund primary schools to increase the support for parents in helping children to read by running after school literacy classes for parents and pupils together. This is a low cost intervention that can be trialled within the funding already announced by government in the 2016 Budget to help schools provide after school activities.

The SMF’s cross-party Commission, chaired by former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg – with other commissioners including the Labour MP Stephen Kinnock and Conservative MP Suella Fernandes, cites new research it has conducted into the impact of parental engagement on a child’s educational development.

The Commission’s new research – Family Matters – looks at indicators of parental engagement at both age 5 and age 11 and found:

  • Parents not reading to a child at age 5 decreases their age 11 verbal reasoning test score by 1.5 points on average; and children who never read for enjoyment have test scores that are on average 1.88 points lower at age 11, and also make poorer progress between ages 5 and 11 (1.53 points lower).
  • Children who had someone at home making sure their homework was completed before undertaking other activities (i.e. watching TV) had scores at age 11 that were 93 points higher than those that did not. They also made much better progress between ages 5 and 11, with an improvement of 1.73 points compared to those that did not have someone ensuring homework was completed.
  • Children who had someone attending their parents’ evening had much higher test scores at age 11, this being due to them making better progress between ages 5 and 11. Children with someone attending parents’ evening made 26 points better progress between ages 5 and 11 than those that did not.
  • Children reporting their parents never took an interest in their school work had an age 11 test score 32 points lower than those whose parents took at least some interest. The progress these children progress made between ages 5 and 11 was also 1.84 points lower.

The Commission also notes a role for Ofsted in increasing parental engagement, arguing that it should explore possible methods by which it could more effectively obtain the feedback of parents on how well schools are performing, including how those schools are doing in engaging parents in their children’s learning. In 2015/16 only 3.1% of parents in state schools completed Ofsted’s ‘Parent View’ survey.

Commenting on the research the Commission’s chair, the Rt Hon Nick Clegg MP, said:

“This research clearly highlights the benefits of parents and carers increased engagement with their children’s education. The Government should work closely with Ofsted and primary schools to create more opportunities for parents to be involved in after school activities. This is a low cost, simple solution that could significantly improve outcomes for many children across England and Wales.”

The report Family Matters: The role of parents in children’s education attainment also found that:

  • Children who never listen to or play music outside school have age 11 test scores 03 points lower than those who do, with progress being 1.02 points lower.
  • Children who never draw or paint outside school have age 11 test scores 37 points lower than those who do, with progress being 1.76 points lower.
  • Those who have a regular bedtime have a score 13 points higher than those that do not, and have progress between ages 5 and 11 that is 0.74 points higher.

Despite this research into the impact of parental enagement, the Commission’s focus remains on the differences in educational attainment between children from the most and least disadvantaged backgrounds. Family Matters also highlights the importance of parental income and education level on a child’s educational outcomes:

  • The median verbal reasoning test score at age 11 for children from the highest income quintile is almost 6 points higher than the median score for the lowest income quintile.
  • A child with a main parent (usually mother) with a Masters or Doctorate on average has a test score 4.43 points higher than a child with a main parent with no qualifications.
  • Where a child is from a family with both a high income and a high level of qualifications, these differences added together are such that a child’s score would be almost 10 points higher on average.
  • And higher earning parents are more likely to be engaged (95% of parents in highest income quintile reported attending a parents evening compared to 89% in the lowest).

Commenting on the Commission’s findings, SMF Director Emran Mian, said:

Our analysis suggests parents’ engagement in their children’s learning can improve attainment. This might seem like common sense. But the role that parents can play is not recognised well enough in making policy or driving school improvement.

“When extending the school day schools should be thinking about using that opportunity to engage parents more, especially the parents who want to help their children’s learning but lack the skills or knowledge to do so.”


A copy of the Family Matters: The role of parents in children’s education attainment is available on request.


About the SMF Commission on Inequality in Education:

The Commission on Inequality in Education takes as its starting point the contention that undeserved inequalities are a barrier to social mobility and result in unfairness. It recognises that there is agreement across the political spectrum that we should be seeking to close the gap between the performance of disadvantaged children and their better-off classmates.

The Commission comprises three elected politicians from different parties – Nick Clegg (its chair), Conservative MP Suella Fernandes and Labour MP Stephen Kinnock – and two recognised education experts – Sam Freedman of Teach First and Dr Rebecca Allen of Education Datalab. They work closely with the SMF’s team of researchers.

We anticipate that the Commission’s work will be supported by a number of funders. The commission retains full independence in relation to how it works and its conclusions. It will report its full findings in 2017.

About the Social Market Foundation:

The Social Market Foundation is an independent, non-partisan think tank which develops innovative ideas across a broad range of economic and social policy. We believe that fair markets, complemented by open public services, increase prosperity and help people to live well.


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