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Educational aspirations: How English schools can work with parents to keep them on track

Loic Menzies

29 January 2013

Are aspirations as important as how students can achieve them?

New research shows that the real challenge for disadvantaged young people is achieving their aspirations. This study argues that schools and policy-makers in England put a lot of effort into ‘raising aspirations’ to increase achievement among disadvantaged pupils, but this is based on false assumptions about low aspirations. The real challenge for disadvantaged young people is achieving their aspirations. Schools should focus on keeping pupils’ aspirations on track. Working with parents (meaning parents or guardians) is a highly effective way of doing so. The study found that:

  • Disadvantaged pupils often have high aspirations. However, they may not know how to achieve them and may struggle to maintain them.
  • Disadvantaged parents and their social networks can lack the experience and knowledge to help their children. Engaging parents to help them understand what their children’s aspirations involve and what will help achieve them is an effective way of raising attainment.
  • Engagement is most effective when it is collaborative, builds strong relationships and focuses on learning and when schools meet parents on their own terms by tapping into their needs and interests, creating environments that feel comfortable

     

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