The focus of parental involvement in their child's education and schools must change
Parents' involvement in their child's education is at the heart of what the National Parents Council Primary (NPC) is all about.
Based on decades of research, NPC believes that all parents should be supported and encouraged to be involved in their children's education. Why? Because it makes a difference and not only does it make a difference, research suggests it makes a significant difference on educational outcomes for children, much more than we probably thought.
Charles Desforges, an independent education researcher in the UK, has found that "differences in parental involvement have a much bigger impact on achievement than differences associated with the effects of school in the primary age range".
If this is the case, then we need to take parents' roles in education very seriously.
Often resources and advancement in education are directed towards improving our schools. While this is important, it is clear from the research that we should be concentrating much of our efforts on improving parents' capacity to engage with their children's learning to ensure their best possible education achievements.
It also makes economic sense. If parents' involvement at primary level has the biggest impact on their child's education success then it makes sense that investment in this area will return greater improvements for children.
So what do we mean by parent involvement. Does it mean that the school's parents' association has raised funds to buy whiteboards? Does it mean that thanks to the parents' efforts the school can now buy violins and provide lessons in music?
While all types of parents' involvement can have a positive effect, we know from many studies that it is actually what parents do with their child at home that has the greatest impact. It is parenting their children in education that makes the biggest difference.
The focus of how parents are involved in their child's education and in schools in general must change. NPC is working to change this focus.
It believes that Ireland needs an evidence-based, national framework for parental involvement. Investment in parents will improve children's success and will be more effective than if we are focusing only on addressing school improvement.
Change needs to occur at all levels within the system to really make a difference for children. We need supportive policy, supported schools and supported families.
This year, Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan has promised a new Parent and Student Charter, which aims to strengthen the relationship between parents, students and schools and, the position of parents and students generally within the school system.
This will give us an opportunity to examine how these key relationships in schools can work better for children.
We need to broaden our thinking regarding how the school, parents, children and the local community should all work together focusing on the child's education and well being. Parents also need support in their vital parenting role.
On Saturday NPC will host its annual conference, this year entitled "Building Brighter Futures". It is free to all parents and is taking place in Dublin. There will be international and Irish speakers. For more details: www.npc.ie or call 01-8874034.
Aine Lynch is chief executive of the NPC Primary