PARENTS are being asked to brush up on their times tables and play "adding" games on supermarket trips to help boost their children's numeracy skills, writes Karen Thornton.
The Government has also set aside pound;1 million for family numeracy schemes in 50 education authorities. These are part of its National Numeracy Strategy which is due to start in all primary schools this September.
It is promising weekend and evening "crammer" lessons, as well as Easter and summer holiday numeracy schools, in a bid to hit its target of 75 per cent of 11-year-olds achieving the standard expected for their age in national tests by 2002.
But parents' groups are warning the Government not to overburden them with education initiatives - claiming parents are more concerned about pastoral matters than academic issues.
The family initiatives are the latest in a string of policies targeting parents as a way of boosting children's performance. Family literacy groups are already well established in some schools, as a result of the National Literacy Project.
And more recently, ministers announced that the Department for Education and Employment and the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority are working on information leaflets for parents of primary-age pupils. These would outline key curriculum topics and give advice on related books, CD-Roms and local places to visit such as museums.
The first leaflets are due out in the spring, and as well as boosting support for pupils could also be used to recruit their parents to lifelong learning, according to schools minister Charles Clarke.
Speaking at last week's Association for Science Education annual meeting, he said that 95 per cent of parents want to help their children, but don't know how best to do it.
But Margaret Morrissey, of the National Confederation of Parent-Teacher Associations, said parents were already doing a lot of what is proposed.
"If we are not careful we are going to miss out on some of the other very important things in children's education - like music, drama, and spiritual, social, moral and cultural development. I have evidence from parents that they feel these areas are equally, if not more, important."