The effects of cutting class sizes, employing classroom assistants and spending more on books and computers will be limited without parallel initiatives on working with families, according to the Scottish Council Foundation. And new community schools will only raise the attainment of the most disadvantaged pupils by concentrating on the families, the independent think-tank argues.
In a report published this week, Family Learning: Parents as Co-educators, it says evidence from the United States indicates that early intervention is most effective when parents are involved from the beginning.
The report says: "Those programmes which appear to maintain positive outcomes (cognitive, behavioural, attitudinal) in the longer-term were found to have intervened earlier, offered more intensive one-to-one support, and included an element of follow-through."
The council recognises the strength of the "school effect" in Britain and the US, but argues schools will be more effective if they relate more closely to what happens outside the classroom. The new community schools may not produce "the step-change" in learning unless professionals address families with low self-esteem and poor expectations. Family learning is needed because of the lack of trust between home and school, the council adds.
James McCormick, research director, said their survey of local authorities "found widespread support for the view that the Government aim of promoting social inclusion through early learning will fail without a firmer commitment to family involvement. Directing new investment into the classroom - more teachers, more books, modern technology, smaller class sizes - was seen as necessary but not sufficient."
"Family Learning" costs pound;5 from the Scottish Council Foundation, 23 Chester Street, Edinburgh EH3 7ET. Tel: 0131 225 4709 4H News TESJseptember 24J 1999 Concentration and cooperation shine on the faces of these children learning from a carpet game at Granton Primary in Edinburgh.