Parents more concerned about results than child's happiness, says survey

Poll finds that while parents worry about bullying and unhappiness, they are more concerned about their child’s performance

Pressure to get good results means most parents are more worried about the progress their children are making at school than about bullying or their happiness, according to a survey of families preparing to start the new school year.

With most schools in England and Wales reopening on Monday after the summer holidays, the poll conducted for education charity TLG found that most parents rated their child’s classroom achievements as one of their top concerns.

The survey also found parents worried more about their children not meeting expectations or being stretched sufficiently as they got older, peaking among parents with children in the early years of secondary school.

While 52% of parents ranked their child’s progress among their major concerns, just under 50% picked out bullying and unhappiness at school as key worries, according to the survey of more than 1,000 parents carried out by pollsters ComRes.

Tim Morfin, the chief executive of TLG, said while it was natural for parents to want to be assured that their children were keeping up with their peers, concerns over progress may be the result of over-emphasis on achievement from schools and policymakers.

“There is an instinct as a parent to want to make a comparison, both in what is expected for a child of that age and as compared to other kids in the class. But there’s so much pressure now, it feels, around educational performance and how best to help our children succeed, and that’s getting harder as exams are getting more difficult,” Morfin said.

“It feels like our kids have got to do really, really well [at school] to make a success of life. So it’s interesting that’s what surfaces in the minds of parents.

“We wouldn’t say this is a call for more communication from schools around progress. It’s about asking if we have created anxiety in parents by saying that education is all about year six Sats or GCSE results.”

Bullying remains a concern among parents, with one in five naming fear of their child being bullied as the single thing that most concerned them about returning to school.

Fear of bullying peaked among parents of children entering primary school, even though official data from schools shows that the most serious exclusions for bullying and violence occurs in the early teens.

“There’s a sense that the problems are becoming more visible sooner, and that’s to do with struggling families and maybe a system that is having difficulty in reaching out and supporting families to tackle issues around bullying early,” Morfin said.

But while the bad behaviour of other children worries parents, they have few concerns about their own child’s behaviour: just 3% of parents rated it as their top concern. And despite worries about progress, homework was the lowest concern for the parents surveyed, with just 2% of parents listing it as a top priority.

TLG was founded in Bradford 18 years ago, partnering with churches across denominations to aid children and families in education, through support for families and volunteer coaches helping pupils having difficulty at school.

“What we have learned over our 18 years of supporting children in schools is that, typically, wherever there is a struggling child there is often a struggling family or a parent who is anxious and concerned.

“But without a doubt, many parents of children who aren’t struggling still have anxiety regarding schools. School is a challenge for many parents, and working out how to best support their children is a conundrum,” Morfin said.


Richard Adams Education editor

The GuardianTramp

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