Executive Summary

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‘When’ not ‘if’
The impact of parents’ learning on children’s aspirations
and attainment
Interim Findings: Executive Summary
Background
Despite much anecdotal evidence there is a lack of national research investigating
the connection between parents’ learning and young people’s aspirations and
attainment. This qualitative study funded by Aimhigher West Yorkshire focuses on
adults studying in Further Education at Levels 2 and 3 in areas of socio-economic
deprivation who have children aged 14 - 19. It explores how parents’ personal goals
are changed both by their return to education and their involvement in aspirationraising activity and investigates how this influences their hopes for their children.
The research also examines the impact of parents’ learning on young people’s own
educational ambitions and attainment and considers how this interacts with issues of
social capital and social mobility.
The interim findings report outlines the context and methods of the research and
presents findings from the first stage; a series of interviews with 14 parents and 7
young people. A second phase of the study is underway and interviews are taking
place with a further 15 parents, 10 young people and 6 key influencers in order to
expand and corroborate the findings to date. In this phase, the target age range of
young people has been expanded from 14-19 to 11-19 in order to examine the
impact of parental learning on younger children’s schooling over a longer period.
Research questions



What is the impact of parents’ learning on their children’s attainment and
aspirations?
Are there any changes in parents’ aspirations for their children which stem
from taking part in widening participation activity?
Does this have any impact on young people’s aspirations for themselves?
Positive Benefits
A number of positive benefits for young people’s education, achievements and goals
as a result of their parents’ return to learning have begun to emerge. These include:



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Parents and young people studying together;
Young people’s understanding grows as they share their skills and knowledge
with their parents;
Young people’s awareness of learning opportunities grows;
Parents better able to understand homework and support their child’s
learning.
Key Points




Adults who have good educational experiences at any age want more, both
for themselves and their children.
The extent to which a parent’s learning impacts on their child seems to be
affected by the child’s age when the parent re-enters education and whether
the parent progresses to HE.
The more widening participation interventions parents receive and the higher
the level of education they reach, the greater the benefits for children.
There is a significant variance in parents’ sense of agency in relation to their
child’s education and future prospects. Whilst some clearly see it as their
responsibility to steer and guide their children, others had a more hands-off
attitude, leaving it up to the school and the child them self to decide their path.
Recommendations


Parents must be recognised as potential learners in their own right, as well as
for their role in their children’s education;
Parents’ access to information about routes into further study is essential if
these mutual benefits are to be maximised.
The full interim findings report; ‘When’ not ‘if’: The impact of parents’ learning on
children’s aspirations and attainment’ by Olivia Garvey and Libby Clark is
available from: http://www.leeds.ac.uk/lifelonglearningcentre/community/about.html
Communities and Partnerships
Lifelong Learning Centre
University of Leeds, LS2 9JT
0113 343 4635 / 0113 343 3229
[email protected] / [email protected]
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