Our research reveals parents want more say in education but 'one-size fits all' approach doesn't work

31/01/17

A new report that we have released on Tuesday 31st January 2017 reveals a concerning lack of engagement with government education policy despite an apparent desire by parents to be more involved in their child's education.

Our annual parent survey looks at:

  • Parents' relationships with their child's school
  • Their willingness to support it to influence their child's education
  • Their understanding of government education policy.  

Our survey found:

Parents want a say and want to be more involved

  • More than eight out of 10 (84%) parents want to be consulted by the school about their child’s education but nearly half (46%) are unsure if their feedback is properly taken into account by schools
  • Nearly a quarter (24%) of parents either do not understand or are disengaged (29%) with government policy; and 42% do not think the government listens to them when it comes to their views on education in any event
  • 56% of parents believe that PTAs are mainly focused on fundraising; however, 39% also think that PTAs are a mechanism for parents to express their views.

We have long-championed the importance of parental participation in children’s learning and school life, while promoting the positive impact this has on academic attainment and educational outcomes.  

Survey results in relation to parental engagement

  • Most (91%) parents have been involved in helping their child with homework while over three quarters (76%) have attended a parent consultation 
  • While four in 10 state lack of time as the single most important reason for not participating in other ways at school (e.g. on a parent association / forum etc.), well over a quarter (29%) report never having been asked to participate in the first instance
  • Nearly half (49%) would consider being active in a parent council or other parent group despite never having done this in the past
  • The research also found that 40% of unemployed parents are less likely to get involved in parent groups because they are unsure of the skills and knowledge they can contribute, while only a quarter of employed parents (26%) saw this as a barrier but stated lack of time as the main reason for not getting involved
  • Overall, 23% of parents have been involved in their school parent group while only 12% of parents have been a school governor/trustee. Measures could be implemented by schools to increase mothers taking up these key decision-making positions to address gender inequality, since relatively more fathers take on these roles.

Other issues of concern which could be addressed with greater parental involvement

  • Parents are concerned by the rising cost of schooling
  • Nearly three quarters (72%) of parents say the cost of sending children to state school is increasing with nearly half (47%) being concerned about having to meet these costs.  School trips top the list for the biggest concern ; while four out of 10 are worried about the cost of uniforms and one in five (19%) show concern over the cost of school meals 
  • Over a third (37%) of parents recall being asked to donate to their child’s school fund (£7.30 being donated each month on average). However, nearly half of these parents (46%) do not know how that money is spent.

We recognise the financial pressures on schools today, but in light of these findings, we call for greater transparency and urge the government and schools to communicate with parents about pressures on school budgets; to consider funding requests holistically so that parents are not over-burdened, and to engage parents more fully so they are given a say over the level of contribution and where this is being invested in their child’s education.

Bullying tops parent school concerns

  • At the top of parent concerns is bullying with over three quarters (77%) saying it is very important for schools to offer support in this area, while over two thirds (67%) say the same for cyber-bullying 
  • Nine out of 10 parents agree that a good education goes beyond exam results and seven out of 10 (71%) parents believe teaching the right values should be a priority in schools.

Emma Williams, Executive Director said: 

“We know that when it comes to how well a child does at school, parents really matter. Our research highlights the many issues which parents are concerned about but it also shows there is an untapped resource of parents who would be willing to support not only their own child’s education, but their school community as a whole. Parents want to have a say in education and what happens at their child’s school. Many of the decisions made by government and schools affect parents one way or another so it’s only right that they should be able to contribute their views. This breeds a spirit of positive partnership which ultimately benefits every child. However, parents are not one homogenous group. They have individual needs and only by engaging with them directly can their issues be addressed. Parents can play a critical role in the development of school policy, express their views around national education proposals, bring new ideas on how to raise standards or indeed support families who are ‘just about managing’. Our research shows there is an untapped resource and great potential, for example, in positively engaging fathers and nurturing new families to a school to enrich the community as a whole. PTA UK calls on the Government, education authorities and schools to redouble their efforts to involve and engage all parents so that together we can achieve the best possible education for our children.”

About the research

The research was conducted by Research Now and took place between 24th Oct and 2nd Nov 2016.  The sample involved 1514 parents in England, Wales and Northern Ireland with at least one child between the ages of 5 and 18 at state school.