Parental Impact on Success at School


As an experienced educator, I know that parental involvement is key to children performing well at school.  It can really make the difference between under-performance and success!


Nature vs. nurture

Science has yet to identify the gene responsible for intelligence and there is disagreement about the amount of intelligence that is inherited. However, attributes such as hard work and perseverance are not heredity, they are learnt and mimicked attributes, and they can drive high performance when combined with the acquisition of good learning skills. This, along with the assertion that there are no innate limits on high performance, has been explored in the book Great Minds and How to Grow Them by Wendy Berliner and Deborah Eyre (Published by Routledge, 2017).

Claire Taylor, pro vice-chancellor (academic strategy) at St Mary’s University in London wrote the following in a blog for The Times Higher Education:


“As educators, we have a responsibility to debunk the myth that intelligence is fixed… An alternative approach should be based on the premise that success is not dependent on a predetermined scale of ability but is dependent on students and educators expecting that learning capacity can be transformed, grown and enhanced through external intervention.”


The idea of limitless potential has been controversial. However, studies show that genetics appear to have minimal impact, whilst parents who maximise environmental factors to support learning in the home, have an impact on developing the performance of their children at school.


Parental impact


Parents can help build learning skills in their children, by thinking of themselves as extra teachers to their children. Ways in which parents can support learning include: showing a genuine interest in topics being studied, playing chess together, finding out their child’s real passions and encouraging the pursuit of them, making learning a fun family activity, and encouraging children to see failure as an opportunity to improve and succeed.


Deborah Eyre’s High Performance Learning Formula states that there are four key elements that are all required to attain high achievement:


  • Potential
  • Motivation
  • Opportunities
  • Support.


Parental support and motivation are key, as are the extra opportunities to learn they can provide, either through their own actions or by employing extra help. Good tutoring for example, can bridge the gap for many students whose potential might not be reached in school, especially if they have been labelled as not “clever” by not being in the top sets, or have missed school due to ill-health. If the focused attention of a brilliant tutor can bring out latent (perhaps unrecognised) potential, it can be said to support the principles of “high performance learning” and help any child reach academic heights they may have thought impossible.


Potential and hard work


I know from experience that some of what is needed to succeed is inherent and some is not. Whilst I test students for ability, I also recognise the importance of hard work and practice in progressing a student forward, with parental support being an essential underlying element.


Hard work alone cannot bring success at the highest levels. There must be a baseline level of intelligence, which is measurable, and that’s what we do in our academic assessments. The variance is probably between 10- 15%, so we can use the baseline assessment to see what can be achieved given the right home conditions and teaching input.


Assessments help guide future school choices. They identify a child’s potential to thrive in different types of school (with their respective pedagogies and attitudes to achievement). A child might have the latent ability, but not the learning style or character, to fit the set-up at some highly academic selective schools. A child like this might be happier in a school with broader opportunities and an emphasis not just on academics but on the well-rounded student. Once again, this is where parental involvement and care are required, to ensure that the choices made best suit the individual child. And once a child starts at their chosen senior school, the parent’s role changes again, but still remains an important factor in their child’s wellbeing and academic success.

To read all my features published on London Mums magazine on schooling, tutoring and parenting children at school click here

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