In My Opinion: Parents need to get involved in learning activities at home
How can parents help their children get the best outcomes from their education? Is it the parents' job, or is it the school's?
What are the factors that mean that some children do well in the education system and some struggle? Are there factors that parents can influence?
Educational disadvantage is defined in the 1998 Education Act as: "...the impediments to education arising from social or economic disadvantage which prevents students from deriving appropriate benefit from education in schools."
This sounds reasonable I hear you say, and most would agree that often children who don't achieve good educational outcomes have impediments to education arising from social or economic disadvantage.
The question is, though: is this social or economic disadvantage the main reason for students not deriving appropriate benefit from education, is it one of a range of reasons, or is it just a coincidence.
So what does the research say? Research suggests that parental involvement in a child's learning has more of an impact on a child's educational outcomes than social class, level of parental education or income.
Based on this research maybe we need to look again at our definition of "educational disadvantage".
Educational disadvantage maybe needs to be characterised under parental involvement indicators more, and socio-economic factors less.
It suggests that children who seem locked into a cycle of poverty, unemployment and social disadvantage have much more hope of breaking that cycle if we can support their parents to be involved in their educational lives.
As well as re-examining what educational disadvantage means, we also need to re-examine what parental involvement means in education in Ireland.
Thirteen years ago the Education Act firmly concretised parents' role in the education system. The legislation set down the framework for parental involvement in schools through parents associations and school boards of management.
Thirteen years on and there have been a lot of changes. Parents are acknowledged as one of the partners in education and are involved in education policy development alongside teachers, management bodies and the Department of Education and Skills.
However what about at the local level -- what has changed in schools? Research has indicated that all types of parental involvement in education will have a positive impact on children's educational outcomes.
However, research also strongly indicates that the most effective forms of parental involvement are those which engage parents in working directly with their children on learning activities in the home.
There are examples of great practice in schools in Ireland of parental involvement in children's learning, however, when we examine the dominant relationship that parents have with their children's schools it is mainly an information receiving and a fundraising one.
Was this really what parents in Ireland took to the streets for? Their right to fundraise?
The National Parents Council is holding its National Education Conference on Saturday at the National College of Ireland, IFSC, Dublin, which will explore ways that parents can get involved in their child's education