The aspirations, attitudes and behaviour of both parents and children play an important part in explaining why poorer children typically do worse at school, according to new research out today (29 March) by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
Poorer children's educational attainment: how important are attitudes and behaviour?, looks at the 'achievement gaps' between children from richer and poorer backgrounds. It finds that the performance of children with the same ability varies widely depending upon the attitudes of both the children themselves and their parents. These were shown to be very different between rich and poor families throughout the primary and early secondary years (ages 7 to sixteen).
Alissa Goodman, co-author of the report, said:
This research reiterates the strong link between poverty and low educational attainment. The gap between rich and poor children is already large at the age of three, but it continues to widen in the primary and early secondary years. One of the biggest distinctions between poorer and richer families is the extent to which they aspire towards higher education, and how much they believe their own actions can make a really big difference in their lives.
Some of the key factors that appear to explain the widening gap are:
By age 11, only 74 per cent of children from the poorest fifth of families reached the expected educational level compared with 97 per cent of children from the richest fifth. This could, in part, be explained by parental aspirations and attitudes to education, which vary significantly depending on their economic and social position. For example, the research found that only 37 per cent of the poorest mothers hoped their nine-year-old would go to university compared with 81 per cent of the richest mothers.
Helen Barnard, JRF Programme Manager, said:
Such adverse attitudes to education are one of the single most important factors associated with lower educational attainment at age eleven. These findings suggest that if more focus was put on improving aspirations and attitudes during the primary and early secondary years, it could make a big difference in the gap between rich and poor childrens attainment.
The JRF is now asking for peoples' views on these findings: whether they have had any personal experience of the issues raised; if they know of any actions already being taken to address the issues; and what other issues, if any, they are aware of.