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In What Ways Are Parents Targeted and Affected by Recent Education Policies?

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Published: 16th Dec 2019

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In what ways are parents targeted and affected by recent education policies

The essay focuses on homework policy in the United Kingdom, with regard to parental involvement. It considers the three roles in which parents are targeted. These include parents as participators, facilitators and invigilators. The discussion for each of the roles will be based on researches of Parental Involvement in children’s education by Hoover-Dempsey and Sandler (1995) and Moon and Ivins (2004). For each of the definitions of these three aspects, individual merits of each homework policy will be measured, specific examples of policies within the UK will be defined, and factors contributing to the success or failure of each policy will be examined. In conclusion, through the position that I intend to take on this issue, I am going to make a final suggestion to support the argument that parents should be good participators, facilitators and invigilators to support their children to do homework, and that they should also work with schools and governments to promote homework policies. At this point I would like to acknowledge the work of Hoover-Dempsey, Battiato, Walker, Reed, DeJong and Jones whose suggestions are that school practices should enhance the effectiveness of parental involvement in homework in 2001. Recent policy discourses have influenced the position of parents in the UK and affected middle class and working class parents who were less likely to participate (Boshier, 1973). Due to social status, barriers to participation by lower socio-economic groups are already discussed by London, Wenkert and Hagstrom (1963) that higher education environments (and students) are consciously middle class. Due to some of the current literature about home-school acknowledges the imbalance in power, which structures relationships between parents, especially working-class parents, and educational professionals (Vincent, 2013). With such background information in mind, the considerations of this essay will be scoped to middle class parents, which are the majority groups in the UK (Vincent and Tomlinson, 1997). In the final section of this paper, I will suggest the policies to deal with working/middle class parents and explain what we have to focus on this group of parents and why it is challenger than the upper class. Nowadays, educators, policymakers, parents, including children are still arguing about whether homework is helpful.

The homework issue from Encounter by Kralovec (2007) provides that recent homework debates in England have centered on the questions of how much homework at which grades produces what kinds of learning gains. A recent analysis of homework research by the Center for Public Education (2007) found that homework at the elementary level is counter-productive, while homework in middle and high school shows some correlation with small increases in test scores. But those findings do not hold across the board. Homework may have non-academic benefits in terms of developing time-management, responsibilities and student habits, but research on these benefits is limited and far from conclusive. There is also a lack of research on the effects of different types of homework on student achievement. In short, we recently have no clear understanding of the instructional value of homework than we did 100 years ago, when the practice was first challenged by physicians, who believed it was detrimental to the health of young children (Kralovec, 2007). Eccles’ expectancy-value model of achievement-related choices is offered as a conceptual framework for the discussion of students’ perspective (Eccles & Wigfield, 2002). All activities from the school should boost students up with any skills they need to improve, and homework is one of the many tools to improve their academic skills. Warton (2001) said that the purpose of homework is at the intersection of home and school and the positive outcomes of homework are frequently cited by parents. However, many researchers report that homework is not important in improving academic skills and, in fact, it wastes children’s time in doing other activities, which are more practical and suitable for the real life (Kralovec, 2007). Bennett and Kalish (2006) criticised both the quantity and quality of homework. They provided evidence that too much homework harmed students’ health and family time, and they asserted that teachers were not well trained in how to properly assign homework.

Another question regarding homework is the extent to which schools should involve parents. Cooper (2006) recommended homework for elementary students because he thought that the purpose of homework should be to help young children develop good study habits, build positive attitudes toward schools, and connect between students and schools that the concept of learning should be similar to how parents teach them at home. Cooper, Robinson, and Patall (2006) meta-analysis found the same pattern of stronger relationships between homework and parental involvement at the secondary level but also identified a number of studies at grades 2-4 which demonstrated positive effects of homework. In The Battle over Homework (2007), Cooper noted that homework should have different purposes at different grade levels:

  • For students in the earliest grades, it should foster positive attitudes, habits, and character traits; permit appropriate parent involvement; and reinforce learning of simple skills introduced in class.
  • For students in upper elementary grades, it should play a more direct role in fostering improved school achievement.
  • In 6th grade and beyond, it should play an important role in improving grades and standardized test scores.

Thus, it can be deduced from the mentioned studies that parents should play an important role in linking between the school and the home to improve students’ academic achievements. I will be focusing on the parental aspects of the homework policy, in order for this information to be most beneficial and relevant to parents who have been targeted and affected by education policy.

Parental involvement is an adjunct to well-developed educational programmes. Many investigators have reported that parental involvement, including but not exclusive to involvement in students’ homework, is directly related to student achievement and personal attributes conducive to achievement (e.g. self-regulation, perceptions of academic competence; Delgado-Gaitan, 1992; Grolnick & Slowiaczek, 1994; Xu & Corno, 1998). Parents appear to involve themselves in their children’s homework for three major reasons: (a) they believe that they should be involved, (b) they believe that their involvement will make a positive difference, and (c) they perceive invitations to involvement (Hoover-Dempsey et al., 1997). Paulu (1998) suggests that the use of a consistent homework schedule “helps students remember to do assignments”. A consistent schedule can also “help busy parents remember when their children’s assignments are due”. Since the late 1980s, this overview of homework policy has drawn attention from schools, teachers, policy-makers, and especially parents who are targeted and affected by educational markets (Ball, 2003).

Parents’ attitudes towards homework

To make sure that homework is appropriate, schools should assign purposeful homework. Legitimate purposes for homework include introducing new content, practicing a skill or process that students can do independently but not fluently, elaborating on information that has been addressed in class to deepen students’ knowledge, and providing opportunities for students to explore topics of their own interest (Marzano & Pickering, 2007). Marzano, Gaddy, and Dean (2000) emphasise that teachers should make sure that the purpose of homework assignments is clear to both students and parents. Students should leave the classroom with no confusion about either what they are being asked to do or how to do it. A school policy regarding homework, along with clear expectations for teachers as to what constitutes good homework, can help strengthen the benefits of homework for students’ learning while decreasing potential problems. The policy might define the role of homework at each grade level. For example, “Homework should help young children develop good study habits, promote positive attitudes toward school, and communicate to students whose learning takes place outside as well as inside school. Thus, assignments should be brief, involve materials commonly found in their home, and not be too demanding” (Cooper, 1994). The Center for Innovation and Improvement (2009) mentioned homework as “a primary point of interface between the school and the home [with parents better able] to support the school’s purposes for homework when [teachers] understand what is expected of their students and [parents’] role in monitoring their children’s homework.”

Good and Brophy (2003) provided the following recommendations regarding parent involvement:

Especially useful for parent-child relations purposes are assignments calling for students to show or explain their work completed at school to their parents and get their reactions (Epstein & Salinas, 2004) or to gain parents opinions relating to topics studied in social studies (Brophy & Alleman, 1998). Such assignments cause students and their parents or other family members to become engaged in conversations relating to the academic curriculum and thus extend the students’ learning. Furthermore, because these are likely to be genuine conversations rather than more formally structured teaching/learning tasks, both parents and children are likely to experience them as enjoyable rather than threatening. (p. 395)

Parents were also more positive about the ways in which schools communicate with them and valued informal discussions with schools more than they had done in the past. More specifically, 28% found informal discussions their most useful mode of communication, compared to 18% in 2004 and 10% in 2001. Although parents were positive about communication issues, an increased proportion felt that school information contained ‘too much jargon’ (Li,2006). Awareness of Home-School Agreements was limited and has not changed since 2001. Many homework issues which are debating nowadays, many researchers seem to challenge with this topic about education policies; what can governments do to make education system better. However, not only students who are targeted/affected by homework policy, but also included parents who can be a teacher representative at home in three aspects as participators, facilitators, and invigilators.

Parents as Participators

A ‘participator’ advocates that development assistance should work for the benefit of pupils as target beneficiaries. The Youth Working Group of the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and UK Civil Society Organisations (CSO) developed the three-lens approach to people participation aiming to foster the active, informed and voluntary involvement of young people in decision-making and the life of their communities both locally and globally. Parents can also use this perspective to participate in homework policy. Fleishman (1980) points out the importance of the feelings of responsibility and solidarity in this participatory relationship. Oberschall (1980) remarks that this is especially true for people who are strongly in favour of the collective good. He explains that the important question for the individual is what his/her participation will contribute to the probability of success. Owing to these rationales of participation, it can be deduced that parents voluntarily become participants in their children’s homework because of their self-imposed responsibility of making their children successful at school. It is not only responsibility or solidarity that push parents to participate but social pressure does so as well. Parents and companions collaborate with children in deciding the nature of children’s activities and parents’ responsibilities for participation (Henderson, 1981). In the process of collaboration, children adapt their knowledge to new situations, structure problem-solving attempts, and regulate their responsibilities for managing the process (Foyle, 1986). It can be seen that participators are considering as a person who enhance children’s abilities and provide friendly environment for supporting them to show the real talent. The conceptual framework of this essay is derived from a Vygotskian sociohistorical approach to development and from the concept of guided participation (John-Steiner & Mahn, 1996). Rogoff, Mistry, Göncü, and Mosier (1993), in the examination of both variations and similarities in the models of teaching and learning, including associated patterns of relationship among adults and children, conclude that it becomes essential to try to characterise the relations through activities in which children are involved. Marzano, Gaddy, and Dean (2000) suggest that a school’s homework policy should address the questions that parents often have about homework. For example, the homework policy could specify some responsibilities of teachers, parents, and students (Cooper, 1994). The homework policy of one Massachusetts elementary school mentions that parents should bear responsibilities out of school period which are equal to the amount that the teachers bear in school hours. The homework policies aim to target parents by treating them as participators while children do homework. it is also important for parents to recognise that it is the children’s responsibility to complete homework and that their duties are to support other factors (Protheroe, 2009). However, Eastlea Community School believes that rewards for homework promote a positive ethos. Until now, adults and children are still questioning about the advantage of homework. The school suggests that parents should value and support the school in explaining how homework can help their child progress. In reality, parents are teaching their children all the time whether or not they are conscious of it. The benefits that accrue to students from parental participation in schooling are matched by the benefits that accrue to the adults (Wolfendale, 1983). Parents report that they also come to realise that learning can occur in other settings beyond school settings. Better understanding by parents of the educational process has the advantages of informing parents and potentially supporting students that can help the school system combat conflicts within the community; such as, why homework is actually good for kids or why it is bad.

Although the advantages of parental participation are compelling. There are a few disadvantages that serve to support the position that parents should not be participators with their children. According to Thomas and Velthouse (1990), the motivational model holds that more opportunities to participate in decision-making provide the subordinates with greater intrinsic rewards from work and higher levels of psychological empowerment, which may result in improved work performance (Spreitzer, 1995). Sagie (1996) suggested that the participative style of management is likely to enhance the performance of subordinates. In the scenario of parents being participators of completing homework, it is highly likely that parents would experience psychological empowerment, and an improvement in performance – potentially to the extent that these parents put their self-interests above and over that of their children’s (Arnstein, 1969). Therefore, we might say that parents should not be targeted as participators at all, due to the possibility that their expectations towards their children may change so drastically (e.g. good grades, high performances). That is, parents may position themselves as if the homework is their own to complete and force their children to do that homework in the way that they expected, consequently pupils cannot show their real talents. Klandermans (1984) explains that the production function heavily influences the willingness to participate. On a collective level, the expectation that others will participate operates as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Counter to Olson’s argument, if the expectancy component is a little larger than zero, a collective motive to participate can exist if the collective good is valued highly (Oberschall, 1980). To conclude, that parents should control the level of their participation in homework, then they can support their children with understanding and willingness to help their children. In addition, with clear instructions which point to the purpose of homework, children will put more effort into doing it.

Parents as facilitators

As facilitators, parents should make it clear to students that they value homework and support the school in explaining how homework can help their children progress. Moreover, parents should encourage students and praise them when homework is completed. John Colet School implemented homework policies, since 2016, which have been targeting parents as facilitators. By supporting their children, parents should provide a suitable environment when children do homework. Secondly, parents have the responsibility for organising with the students when homework is to be done, as a student’s free time is important too. Parents should also ensure that extracurricular clubs/activities do not hamper a student’s quality of work or put a student under undue pressure (Hogan, 2005). Lastly, parents should provide the school with information about any problem through the students’ planners or by contacting the school directly. Marzano and Pickering (2007) suggest that while doing homework parents should ask questions that help students clarify and summarise what the latter have learned. According to Schwarz (2005) a facilitator’s purpose is to increase a group’s effectiveness by helping it to improve its processes and structures. He argues that to do this effectively the facilitator needs to be a substantively neutral third party to minimise the likelihood of becoming involved in content or decision-making. Schwarz describes the facilitator as a process expert and advocate who knows the best way to help the group to improve its functioning. It is claim that facilitation serves the purpose of enhancing pupils’ performance through parents’ skills. They should be clear on homework process and help students improve their effectiveness by enabling them to reflect on their behaviour and thinking (Schwarz, 2005). Typically, this requires students to jointly design the learning process rather than assuming facilitators know the best way to help the children learn (Thomas, 2010). The purposes of facilitation have their origins in the supporting people professions: teaching, counselling, social work, and development work (Zimmerman & Evans, 1993). As a result of technological innovation and speed of change we can see that facilitation has grown into both ‘professional and rigorous discipline’ (Pierce, Cheesebrow and Braun, 2000: 24). This creates an obvious tension for outdoor educators, namely parents, who seek to fulfill the role of facilitators with their groups. Typically, as well as facilitating the group process, outdoor educators are required to manage student safety and teach skills and knowledge relevant to the group’s identified learning outcomes. Parents will rarely be able to assume this facilitator role in its strict sense because they typically only have a limited degree of responsibility towards the content of a programme and limited degree of discretion towards the decisions that are made, particularly those concerning the safety of students.

Parents as invigilators

Parents’ homework involvement includes a wide variety of activities, ranging from the establishment of home structures, support for learning to complex patterns of interactive behavior intended to enhance the child’s understanding of homework in particular and learning processes in general (Izzo, Weissberg, Kasprow and Fendrich, 1999).  According to the current JCQ instructions for conducting examinations. The invigilator is the person in the examination room responsible for conducting a particular examination session in the presence of the candidates. Invigilators have a key role in upholding the integrity of the external assessment process. In this essay, parents are the ones who must play this role – they have to maintain at all times and during the homework session the integrity of their children completing homework on their own (Zellman & Waterman, 1998). It is important to not act as an invigilator or supervisor. Peterson, Ewigman and Kivlahan (1993) present one considers how parents’ supervision may relate to childhood injury, this conceptualization suggests that efforts to develop ‘‘standards’’ for supervision or to define what constitutes ‘‘adequate’’ supervision (Coohey, 2003) are probably destined to fail because injury risk is a multidetermined outcome and parents supervision is only one of a number of determinants.

The direction which parents must focus as invigilators should be more specific and careful such as refrain children from other distractions (i.e electronics) (Eberechukwu, 2013). Then children can focus on their homework and feel like they have teachers at home to support when they are struggling with it. That is, parents have to observe kids ensure that kids have the opportunity to demonstrate their abilities. For example, Victory Primary School’s homework policy in 2013 dictated that parents ensured the students’ completed homework to a high standard and that such homework be handed it in on time. If parents felt that insufficient or too much homework was being set, they should contact the subject teacher who will investigate into the situation. The parents were also given parents’ planners, which outlined the topics being covered during the term.

Parents as invigilators should be careful than when they act within the positions of participators and facilitators, mentioned above. Some studies have reported negative effects for parental involvement (Morrongiello, Klemencic & Corbett, 2008). In addition, many parents report that they feel unprepared in helping their children with homework and that their efforts to help frequently cause stress (see Corno, 1996; Perkins & Milgram, 1996). Parents’ action is the key to success to doing homework during non-school hours. Teachers do not expect parents to act as experts regarding content, or to attempt to teach the content without requiring parents to act as teachers, or to police students’ homework completion (Marzano & Pickering, 2007). As invigilators, parents have been requested from schools to check the time spent on individual tasks and also check the presentation and content of all homework being returned to the school. Parents have to sign homework planners each week and organise with the students about when homework is to be done as a student’s duty to ask parents to check before return to school. However, in case children are unable to complete their homework. School suggests that parents should provide the class teacher with a note or contact the class teacher explaining why the homework has not been completed. Teachers will keep records of children completing homework and a comment will also be made on children’s termly report. So, we can see that parents as invigilators at home is a good idea to help support homework policies (Garner, 1991). Parents can develop the most effective practices by observing changes in the achievement of the students with whom they work every day. However, it might hard for working-class parents to spend time with their children, in their capacity as any of the the three positions that this essay present due to their jobs, their responsibilities, and their background knowledge.

Attractive working/middle class parents

Previous research found that the sources of information used by parents when choosing a secondary school are linked to socio-economic group, and that many parents from disadvantaged backgrounds consult no formal sources at all (Peters, 2008). Socioeconomic status is a strong predictor of student success. Students in the free/reduced lunch program have lower scores in both reading and math than do similar others. Reading and math scores are positively related to education—the lowest performing students have no parent with a high school diploma and student scores rise consistently with each increment in parental education. Greater family wealth may affect students through greater resources in the home to complement schoolhouse learning. Alternatively, these parents may place greater emphasis on student learning or provide more support for their children (Buddin & Zamarro, 2009).More than five decades, understanding social class differences in learning, educational access and educational outcomes has been on researchers’ agenda (Davis 1948). Class inequalities in education have been the subject of a long and complex international debate (Bowles & Gintis, 1976). Moreover, the educational equity agenda associated with it has also decayed, in an era of neo-liberalism and market-driven policies (Connell, 2013). Yet, the inequalities have not gone away. Indeed, evidence about them continues to accumulate from many directions (Teese, 2000). In very recent research, both in the UK and Australia, it seems that class inequality is re-emerging as a first-class issue in social-scientific understandings of education (Ball 2003; Teese & Polesel, 2003). Recent British work is broadly consistent with the US studies. Reay and Ball (1997) observe how working-class parents often bear powerful memories of failure in their own school lives. Crozier (1999), in a detailed examination of teacher-parent relationships, notes that while working-class parents are committed to supporting their children’s education, they tend to operate within a division of labour in which teachers are constructed as powerful and knowledgeable, encouraging a fatalistic view of schooling among the parents. For example, researched by O’Connor and Scott in 2007 reports that working-class parents are not generally in a strong position to advise their children on educational strategies, or to negotiate on their behalf. The present data suggests two main reasons for this: the parents’ limited experience of post-school education, and the institutional distance between family and school. There is an important consequence for the future. The more complex the system gets, the more ‘choices’ are inserted, the more difficult it is for these parents to understand and move competently around the education system, including when they have to teach homework for their children. In the UK the neo-liberal, Hayekian vision of the market, to which Margaret Thatcher was converted in the mid-1970s, underpinned both the small business, self-employment revolution in the UK economy in the mid-1980s and the market reforms being implemented in the education system and National Health Service. It is again a Utopian vision of a perfect market made up of numerous small providers, and the competition of all against all, consumer heaven. The reality of the small business revolution is however not so heavenly. In the last quarter of 1991, there were five and a half thousand commercial bankruptcies in the UK, that is one in 40 of all businesses, a rise of 40% on the same period in 1990 (Ball, 1993).

It is also important to set alongside this economics-based rationale for reform, the elements of its attendant political vision. Margaret Thatcher’s economics closely relate to her very individualistic conception of democracy. The studies emphasises the way in which family experiences of school choice are heavily shaped by economic difference and by the extent to which parents are able to deploy a range of cultural, material and economic resources (Amsel & Renninger, 1997). In the words of Reay and Ball (1997) ‘choice is a new social device through which social class differences are rendered into educational inequality’. While middle-class parents tend towards being ‘privileged/ skilled’ choosers (Gewirtz, Ball, & Bowe 1995), able to use more extensive agency to access schools with the strongest examination performance and the most middle class peers for their children, working-class parents tend more towards ambivalence about choice, rejecting consumerist identities and ‘choosing’ instead schools which are outside middle-class norms of desirability. They are less concerned with aspects of schools such as examination performance, valuing instead those which emphasise inclusion and which focus  on the less academically able, again ensuring that their children can be educated alongside others ‘like them’ (Reay & Ball, 1997; Coldron, Cripps, & Shipton, 2010). On the other hand, working-class positions as mentioned above are perceived within dominant frameworks of values as being deficient. Working-class parents who refuse to engage with school choice and who do not share the same educational values as their more affluent counterparts are viewed as failing to undertake the responsibilities that ‘good parenting’ requires. Drawing on the work of Skeggs (2004), Vincent and Ball (2007), Vincent, Braun, and Ball (2008) and Vincent, Braun, and Ball (2010) has highlighted the way in which working-class parents – particularly working-class mothers – face a continual struggle for ‘respectability’. Perceptions of working-class attitudes, values and behaviour have long been at the heart of the traditional division of the working classes into ‘rough’ and ‘respectable’ (Vincent et al., 2010, 127).

Hey and Bradford (2006) have also shown the way in which particular government agendas under New Labour in Britain have reinforced notions of what counts as ‘respectable’ or ‘responsible’ behaviour for working-class families, discursively legitimising increased policy intervention into the lives of these families and positioning them as being in need of ‘reform’ (Exley, 2013). Policy responses to the specific problem of classed school choice experiences in England have involved interventions based on a ‘deficit model’ of working class parenting (Vincent & Tomlinson, 1997; Coldron, Cripps & Shipton, 2010), with attempts to challenge working class values and behaviours. A driving feature of ‘Third Way’ politics has been a belief in the declining importance of class identity (see Giddens 1991, 1994, 1998). Working-class parents were encouraged to think more strategically about the schools to which they would send their children, cultivating consumer identities and asking the same sorts of questions that middle-class parents might ask. Thinking about schools specifically and the ways in which parents’ educational options are limited by the neighbourhoods in which they can afford to live, working-class families living in disadvantaged areas are typically unlikely to gain access to the most ‘desirable’ schools (Weiss, 1999). Even if they do (e.g. if a school does not prioritise local children), their children are more likely than others to face problems fitting in, experiencing feelings of exclusion and alienation. In such a context, where working-class parents frequently have very little choice, it is not surprising that they shy away from the idea of choosing, tending instead towards a rational adjustment of preferences (Exley, Braun & Ball, 2011).


Research provides strong evidence that parental involvement by recent education policy to target and affect parents as participators, facilitators and invigilators when people used appropriately, homework benefits student achievement. Involve parents in appropriate ways, for example, as a sounding board to help students summarize what they learned from the homework (Marzano and Pickering, 2007). When school has a very sensible homework policy and parents provide the appropriate conditions and resources for their children to complete the homework. Parents have to be more active in engaging in homework policy as well as other activities, especially working/middle-class parents who have time limitation in helping their children with their homework. The majority of parents felt unconfident always or most of the time when helping their children with homework. The main reasons for lacking confidence were changing teaching methods and a lack of understanding of the child’s work. On the other hand, they felt that it was extremely important to attend school activities, including their child’s homework. If the school are welcoming towards parents, the latter were generally very positive towards information provided by the school, and the level of consultation and support provided. Policy makers, educators and others who work for improving education should consider how parents are more targeted and affected by educational policies then the desire to get more involved tends to be stronger among parents. Parents feel increasingly involved in their children’s school life. They are also more likely to see education as their own responsibility as well as the school’s, and this is likely to heighten their sense of involvement.


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