APPG — 19th October 2022

Members of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Parental Participation in Education met on 19th October 2022 in Westminster.

The APPG is formed of MPs and peers to promote the benefits of parents actively participating in their child’s education, and of building close and successful relationships between homes and schools. 

In this meeting, members heard presentations from the Education Select Committee on free school meals, the Social Mobility Commission on their State of the Nation 2022 report, and from ourselves regarding parent experiences of remote learning through the pandemic.

Learning at home through the pandemic report

Our research manager presented headline findings from a recently-published​‘Learning at home’ report. It compiled evidence of parents’ experiences of having their child remote learning at home during the pandemic. At the time, schools were closed to all pupils except for the most vulnerable and children of key workers. The presentation outlined how parental engagement in their child’s education had increased considerably when children were remote learning at home. Education technology, or EdTech, represented both an opportunity and a challenge: remote or blended learning provides flexibility, especially for pupils who may struggle to attend school regularly. However, full-time access to devices was found to be wanting for children in three in ten households, and some were additionally disadvantaged by not having a quiet place to study. Common parental concerns were for the mental health impacts of an extended period away from school and out of daily routine, coupled with challenges motivating children to do school work outside of a weekly school structure. 

Free School Meals

The APPG heard a presentation from Education Select Committee member Kim Johnson about Free School Meals (FMSs). The Liverpool Riverside MP is campaigning to provide universal FSMs. She said that such a move will help children living in poverty by ensuring that they have at least one hot meal per day. This matters because it is hard to concentrate when hungry. Johnson warned that the cost of living crisis is going to have a negative impact on the ability of schools to deliver FSMs, with some schools suggesting that meals may be reduced to a sandwich and an apple. She suggested that families are faced with the decision about whether to eat or heat, which will worsen during the winter months. 

Social Mobility Commission

The Social Mobility Commission (SMC) spoke about its​‘State of the Nation 2022’ annual report, which summarises priorities and the status of the country in terms of its social mobility. The SMC explained how a major focus for its work in the years ahead is the impact of parenting and families on social mobility. Its evidence on parental engagement and parental confidence showed a link between parents engaging children in activities like book reading, home tutoring and family conversation with improved vocabulary, listening comprehension, rates of word reading, story comprehension and other reading skills. However, the key is to ensure reading is a reciprocal activity, where the parent should both read to their child and be read to, in order to maximise their child’s growing reading skills. The SMC’s concern is that increases to the cost of living will create new barriers or exacerbate existing barriers that parents face in supporting their child’s learning, especially among families living under the most disadvantaged circumstances.