Curriculum researchers are still paying too little attention to children's out-of-school learning despite evidence that their literacy development is largely determined by their home background.
Peter Hannon of Sheffield University said that he had scanned the contents of six leading curriculum journals published during the past 20 years and had found that only three out of 846 articles concerned parents or home-school issues.
He suggested that this area of study had been neglected partly because it was much easier to conduct research in schools. But he said that "there is something in the way in which curriculum research has been defined which seems to prevent it taking parental involvement seriously . . . the concept of curriculum . . . for most researchers still refers to learning experiences which occur in schools".
Another Sheffield University researcher, Jo Weinberger, said that both teachers and parents needed to know more about the literacy learning that went on behind the closed doors of school and home. Her survey of 42 parents and 11 teachers from eight schools had shown that a sizeable proportion of parents did not know what was expected of them when reading books were sent home. If schools send reading books home they should explain what their rationale is, she said.
Further conference reports will be published next week