Only 20% of the difference in pupils’ achievement is attributable to school quality, the rest depends on life outside the school gates; according to research by Save the Children. And in my town of Reading only 4% of Pupil Premium funding is spent on work beyond the classroom to address this stark reality.

Considerable international research highlights the significant impact of personal and family factors on education outcomes and it’s no news to teachers that parents have a huge impact, but effective work with families continues to be one of the most difficult areas for schools. With such pressure on staff and the curriculum, it’s no surprise that the majority of attention (and Pupil Premium funding) isn’t focused where we are seeing it have the greatest impact.

Following the APPG report on Child Poverty and Social Mobility and the Pilot of a National Parenting Programme we must learn about the best ways to target the parents that are most in need of help. The Government’s target for take-up of the programme trialled in Middlesborough, High Peak and Camden was 40%. In reality, the take-up was only 6% of parents approached costing over £1000 per parent.

Therefore we can conclude that the biggest challenge in engaging parents with parenting programmes is getting buy-in. Where a programme begins from the point of an identified need or deficiency (however that’s framed), there is resistance from parents because their agreement would require them to start by seeing themselves as a ‘weak-link’. Therefore developing partnership with parents is crucial and that begins by recognizing them as the Primary Stakeholders in their child’s education. This kind of conversation begins with; ‘How can we work together to get the best outcomes for your child in education?’

My theory of closing the gap values deep engagement between parents and schools. I founded Gap Education specifically to enable schools to develop effective working relationships with families that are hard to reach, and tackle the root causes of educational inequality, to close the gap.

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