APPG — 29th January 2024

A meeting of the APPG for Parental Participation in Education took place on Monday 29th January 2024, which focused on The National Parent Survey 2024 and was chaired by Gateshead MP Ian Mearns.

The National Parent Survey 2023 sheds light on the impact of poverty on education. Disadvantaged young people do not enjoy as good a school experience or childhood as their peers from higher income households. Details from Parentkind’s research were presented to parliamentarians, with representatives from the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) and YoungMinds joining to discuss the challenges of child poverty and children’s mental wellbeing.

Guest speakers comprised: 

  • Frank Young (Director of Policy and Research, Parentkind) 
  • Kate Anstey (Head of Education Policy & UK Cost of the School Day project lead, Child Poverty Action Group) 
  • Adam Jones (Policy and Public Affairs Manager, YoungMinds)

National Parent Survey: poverty and children’s mental health

Frank Young used the National Parent Survey to update the group about the following parental concerns:

  • The cost of school: 27% of parents are struggling to afford the costs, rising to 50% for parents of children eligible for free school meals (FSM) and 40% for parents of a child with a disability. Uniforms (50%), trips (44%) and meals/​drinks (30%) are the biggest worries.
  • Mental health: 41% of parents say their child has experienced anxiety, and 14% say depression, but the figures are much higher for parents of secondary school children. FSM-eligible pupils are almost twice as likely to experience depression.
  • Enjoyment of school declines: Whereas 81% of parents of primary age children say their child enjoys learning at school, it’s only 58% for parents of secondary age children. Only 59% of parents of children entitled to FSM say they enjoy learning at school, compared to 71% of parents whose children are not eligible for FSM.
  • Satisfaction with quality of education declines: Whereas 79% of parents with a child at primary school are happy, it drops to 67% at secondary level, where there is also growing scepticism about the fitness for purpose of the curriculum.
  • Parental engagement: Parents want a say on their child’s education at school, MAT/LA and government levels, but are much less likely to say they feel listened to. Only 14% felt the government listens to them.

Poverty and education

Kate Anstey used findings from CPAG’s research to shed further light on the impact of poverty on children’s learning and education:

  • Scale of the problem: 4.2 million (29% of UK children) are living in poverty.
  • School day costs: Primary school costs parents £18.69 per week (£864.87 per year). Secondary school costs parents £39.01 per week (£1,755.97 per year).
  • Teachers’ perceptions: 89% believe that child poverty in their school has increased in the last two academic years. They have noticed more families struggling with uniform requirements (78%), more children with not enough money to buy food (68%) and more children struggling to learn due to hunger and fatigue (46%).

Children’s mental health

Adam Jones updated the group with YoungMinds’ findings on young people’s mental health and wellbeing:

  • Prevalence of problem: Experience of mental health issues in young people and referrals for treatment has never been higher, which is overwhelming the system.
  • Impact of pandemic: It has been especially bad for young people living in cramped houses. Many had to stop hobbies and were isolated from their friends. Anxiety increased.
  • Impact of school: 59% said their education setting has a negative impact on their mental health
  • Suggested solutions: Prevention, investment and service improvement. This would involve community hubs outside of the school setting as well as mental health support teams in schools, plus a greater variety of treatments available.

Before summing up and closing the meeting, Chair Ian Mearns noted school staff taking on welfare roles to compensate for service gaps.