'You want the best for your kids': improving educational outcomes for children living in poverty through parental engagement

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Abstract

Background: Existing evidence suggests a relationship between family social contexts, family relationships and interactions, children's social and cognitive development and educational outcomes. Interventions that support families in relation to parenting and supporting children’s development can have positive effects on both parents’ skills and the educational progress of their children. Purpose: This article reports on a study conducted in an area with high levels of social and economic deprivation in Scotland, which aimed to investigate the nature and effectiveness of the services in place to support poor families. The project focused on capturing the experiences of parents and what they perceived as effective support from the nursery and school staff in terms of getting them more involved in their children’s learning. Sample: There was a particular focus on the 4 to 7 years age group, thus covering the crucial transition from pre-school (or non-school) provision to primary school. A sample of three Early Education& Childcare Centres (EECCs) and three schools were selected. The schools and EECCs were all from areas of high social deprivation and had a high proportion of children on free school meals. Design and methods: The study was qualitative in design and included in-depth semi-structured interviews with 19 service managers and practitioners, 6 focus groups with parents and 6 activity groups with children. Data were analysed using both pre-determined and emerging codes. Results: While all parents recognised the value of education for their children’s social mobility and opportunities and were keen to engage in activities, they remained aware of the limited resources they could draw upon, mainly in terms of their restricted academic competencies, specialist knowledge and qualifications. The desire to help their children overcome their families' economic circumstances was also hampered by the absence of strong social and kinship networks that they could draw upon.Conclusions: We draw on concepts of social and cultural capital to examine parents’ positioning in relation to their children’s education. The conclusion highlights parents' strategic orientation to school/nurseries, often seen as a resource of cultural capital, and calls for a more positive discourse of parental engagement in relation to disadvantaged groups.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)327-342
Number of pages16
JournalEducational Research
Volume56
Issue number3
Early online date10 Sep 2014
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sep 2014

Keywords

  • parental engagement
  • 'hard to reach' parents
  • social and cultural capital
  • home-school links
  • poverty and achievement

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