We must help parents to help their children
Scotland is one of few countries in the world that has developed and adopted a national strategy for supporting parents in pursuit of the commendable aim of making our country "the best place in the world to grow up".
A recent report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, however, shows that a worrying gap in educational attainment between poor children and their better-off counterparts begins to emerge very early in life.
We know, from the rich data provided by the Growing Up in Scotland longitudinal study, that children's learning in the earliest years is strongly associated with their later achievements and that very many of our poorest children have already fallen far behind in their learning and development by the age of 2.
What Growing Up in Scotland also highlights is that parental input and the home learning environment are of critical importance to this early learning. As the Joseph Rowntree Foundation report points out, high-quality early childhood education and care is of great value in helping poor children to make up educational ground, as is embedding best practice in schools.
Much better outcomes are achievable, however, if parents are supported and encouraged in providing their children with the best possible early learning experiences. This will substantially reduce the risk of their falling behind in the first place.
Unless we get to grips with this problem, and ensure that our national parenting strategy is fully implemented, we will continue to have parents who struggle to provide their children with the most positive early life, and children whose potential is never fulfilled.
Senior policy and parliamentary officer, Children in Scotland
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