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Equipping parents to support their children’s aspirations: What works?

The Equipping parents to support their children’s aspirations: What works? project identified features of parent engagement and information resources that are effective in helping parents to support their children’s aspirations to participate in higher education.

Parents from low socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds, in common with other parents, report that they want “the best” for their children’s future. Getting a good education is a part of the aspiration of most parents. Parents from mid and high SES backgrounds usually have “educational cultural capital” to support their children’s educational aspiration. This means they can confidently access information they need about possible education pathways within, and beyond, school. They know where to find out about financial and other support resources available to facilitate access to higher education.

We know that programs about career and education pathways for upper primary and junior secondary school children and their families do make a difference children’s to education choices. However, evidence as to the nature and features of programs that are most effective in engaging low SES parents and families in building and supporting their children’s educational aspirations is limited.

This project reviewed previous research and evaluations of information resources and activities for parents and families. People from schools, universities, education departments and community organisations working with children and families attended workshops in Tasmania and Wollongong and discussed features of effective practice identified from the review. Workshop participants reflected on their current parent engagement activities and information and how they could modify their activities and information to include features of effective practice.

Key findings and recommendations

  • There should be greater coordination among organisations aiming to engage parents in developing and supporting their children’s educational aspirations, particularly parents of secondary school children: universities; TAFEs; schools; industry; and community organisations should work together.
  • Programs should recognise and build on the perspectives and knowledge of target parents and families. Parents of disadvantaged students bring a range of knowledge and learning capacities to supporting their children in formal education that should be recognised and valued as assets.
  • Messages and approaches must be culturally appropriate.
  • Parents’ understanding of the schooling required to prepare students for further or higher education should be developed, as well as a culture of academic socialisation.
  • Further work is needed to support the production and dissemination of knowledge about effective intervention parent engagement strategies. Programs should be routinely evaluated, and findings shared widely.
  • The project website includes the review of features of programs and information that are effective in engaging parents and families and recommendations from the project. These include including a call for improved coordination among organisations aiming to engage parents. A web resource was produced for institutions to use when designing resources to engage and inform parents.
  • A journal article was also produced from the project: Fischer, S., Katersky Barnes, R., and Kilpatrick, S. (2017). Equipping parents to support their children’s higher education aspirations: A design and evaluation tool. Educational Review. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00131911.2017.1379472.

This project was funded by the Australian Government Department of Education and Training under the National Priorities Pool (NPP) component of the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP). All of the completed NPP projects from 2014 onward are available here on the NCSEHE website.

Read the full report, Equipping parents to support their children’s aspirations: What works?.

Posted 22 November 2018 Posted in General, Low SES