Poor parenting, family breakdown and overexposure to TV has a serious impact on children’s exam results, according to major Government research.

A study commissioned by the Department for Education found that a wide range of “stress factors” in the home resulted in a sharp dip in pupil performance at school.

The report revealed that exposure to parental divorce or constant arguing among mothers and fathers after the age of seven was closely associated with “lower educational attainment” at secondary level.

It also emerged that having large numbers of brothers and sisters, parents with poor literacy skills and being frequently disciplined in the home had a negative impact on results in primary school.

The conclusions – in a study by the University of London’s Institute for Education – will fuel concerns over the effect of poor parenting on children’s education.

Last year, Sir Michael Wilshaw, the head of Ofsted warned that schools were being forced to act as “surrogate” families because too many mothers and fathers struggled to bring their children up properly.

The Government is now running a national trial of parenting classes for around 50,000 people in an attempt to teach mothers and fathers about communication and listening skills, managing conflict, discipline and setting boundaries for their children.

The DfE study said it was clear that “stressful events can potentially disrupt teenagers’ lives; and in some cases have enduring effects from early childhood”.

Researchers used two major studies of childhood – covering more than 30,000 pupils – carried out over the last 20 years to chart the effect of family life on educational outcomes at seven and 14.

Watching TV was associated with poor verbal skills at the age of seven, while large numbers of siblings was linked to poor non-verbal skills, verbal skills, maths ability and results in assessments sat after two years of school.

A child who was “disciplined more often” had poorer maths skills and was more likely to misbehave.

The report said: “Child disability, an increasing number of siblings, having a depressed mother, having a father with limited literacy skills and being frequently disciplined were all significant risk factors and associated with lower Key Stage 1 scores [at the age of seven].”

The study repeated the exercise for 14-year-olds and found certain factors had a major impact, particularly when they occurred for the first time after the age of seven. This included:

• Parental divorce;

• Mothers and fathers arguing regularly;

• Not seeing parents or siblings as often as usual;

• Moving to a new school.

Speaking last year, Sir Michael said schools were “too often asked to make up for much wider failings within families and communities”.

“Too often, children grow up without the family, cultural and community values they need to thrive,” he said.


By Graeme Paton

Source: Telegraph.co.uk – http://goo.gl/lO7BK