Education (like charity) begins at home.

We are almost a decade into the 21st century, and yet we have got to be reminded, as we are by a number of articles this editorial in today’s edition of The Observer that it’s in the home, and through sound parenting, that children are prepared for the classroom.

By the time British children are around six years old, their social background has overtaken their natural ability as the main predictor of success in education. Their chances of doing well are skewed before they reach reception class. Detailed research and school gate chatter concur on this point: the biggest problems in our education system have their roots outside the classroom.

The point is made plainly in today’s Observer by Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers: “Too many children start school without the social and verbal skills to be able to take part in lessons and to behave well.”

At its annual conference this week, the ATL will highlight declining standards in children’s behaviour, for which parents, Dr Bousted argues, do not take enough responsibility.

Many parents would agree. It is their children’s education that is jeopardised when a minority disrupts the class. Often disruption can be handled by good teaching. But not always; not when bad behaviour is learnt at home and encouraged by parents. This is not exclusively a class issue. Wealthy and poor parents alike undermine teachers’ authority by refusing to accept that their offspring are capable of doing wrong. But there is also a correlation between poverty and households struggling to provide an environment conducive to learning.


The fact that these articles appear in The Observer rather than in the popular press probably means that the message will never get to the people who would most benefit from it.


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