Ensuring children are ready to learn when they arrive at school can be a key factor in ensuring that they actually do learn. It can only be helpful to remind parents that they have a vital role in ensuring their children arrive at school every day ready to learn.
In an environment of increasing pressures on family life, many children arrive at school having not slept sufficiently, or not eaten breakfast. Too many then return to a home where there is little by way of routine, communication or other parental engagement with their learning.
This is why both Family Action and NAHT (the National Association of Head Teachers) have joined forces to launch a new campaign, aimed at tackling the issue of school readiness. The 'Ready to Learn Everyday' campaign which today (Friday 17 May) secured support from schools minister David Laws, aims to raise parental awareness of, and engagement with, their children's learning.
It is encouraging that the government is focusing on closing the attainment gap. The introduction of the Pupil Premium, which will be worth £2.5billion by 2015 has the potential to inject much needed and carefully targeted funding into schools if wisely spent. But ensuring effective parental engagement also has a huge impact on children's ability to learn. We hope that MPs and other people in positions of influence will support the Ready to Learn Everyday campaign.
We know from our own work with families that children who come from vulnerable and disadvantaged families are most at risk of experiencing problems with school readiness. In 2011 the Sutton Trust found that children who come from low-income or disadvantaged families are often up to a year behind in their development in comparison with those coming from families with a more stable or higher income. Parental engagement with learning is especially important for children from these disadvantaged families, as it can significantly improve their learning. But school readiness is not just an issue that affects low-income and disadvantaged parents; it is something that all parents from all backgrounds should seek to achieve for their children.
The year-long Ready to Learn Everyday campaign aims to address school readiness through the creation of a series of leaflets, mainly in electronic form, which are designed to promote and encourage parental engagement with children's learning. They will be issued to schools at four key points across the school year in an electronic format that will enable them to be customised to meet the needs of the local community and then emailed or printed out as necessary. Each will focus on a specific topic looking at how parents can support their children in collaboration with the school.
The first of these leaflets issued at NAHT's annual conference, will give parents an introduction to school readiness. It will look at how they can work with their children to prepare them for the school day and liaise with the school on any well-being issues. The leaflet will also highlight the importance of maintaining routines at home which can make it easier for children to meet the demands of the classroom.
The subsequent three leaflets to be issued over the rest of the school year will cover, Talking & Listening, Helping and Changes.
Schools minister, David Laws said:
"I am delighted Family Action and NAHT will work together with schools to engage parents in getting their children ready for school. Readiness for school is vital for all children, but it is crucial to ensuring children from disadvantaged backgrounds do not fall victim to the attainment gap.
"Closing the attainment gap is at the heart of our reforms. We are overhauling qualifications and the curriculum. We are getting more excellent teachers into the classroom. And our pupil premium, worth £2.5 billion a year by 2015, gives schools the resources to help disadvantaged pupils catch up with other pupils. I am pleased that parents and their children will also benefit hugely from the expertise of these two organisations."
Closing the attainment gap will not happen overnight, but it is vital if we are to help overcome social disadvantage and promote social mobility. Relatively simple things that every parent can do, such as ensuring their children get a good night's sleep or eat a healthy breakfast can have a huge impact on their ability to learn and achieve.
By helping parents, we are helping children and these simple messages about what makes a difference deserve to be heard.
For more information about the partnership you can visit www.family-action.org.uk/NAHT