HC Deb 13 December 1999 vol 341 c84W
Mr. Jim Cunningham

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what measures he is undertaking to encourage links between schools, communities and families in educating children; and if he will make a statement. [101086]

Jacqui Smith

[holding answer 7 December 1999]: We recognise the vital role parents and the wider community can play in supporting children's learning. We have already introduced home-school agreements as one way of fostering a positive, forward-looking partnership between parents and teachers and recently launched a new website for parents. We also announced a "Parents Guide to the National Curriculum" to help them understand what their children are learning and how they can help. In addition, we are piloting National Curriculum topic leaflets for parents and a magazine containing practical tips and information. We also know that the family literacy and numeracy programmes we fund through local authorities can be effective in drawing into learning adults with low basic skills. This is particularly the case for parents who missed out at school, but whose concern for their children can renew interest in their own learning. This will be supported this year by £6 million from the Standards Fund, increasing to £7 million next year, to reach 20,000 parents and their children.

We are also working with others to increase parental involvement. For example, we have been working with the Community Education Development Centre (CEDC) to develop the SHARE project which supports parents in helping their children at home with reading; Parentline Plus have been looking at the feasibility of a new service for parents to help with their children's homework; and we have asked the Institute for Public Policy Research to explore further ways of developing family involvement in children's education and look more widely at extending family involvement in enrichment activities. We are working with Age Concern to extend their Trans-Age grandparent mentoring scheme to secondary schools; and the National Mentoring Network to engage older people with young people in school through mentoring and literacy programmes.

In the new year, the CEDC, partly funded by the DfEE, will publish practical advice to schools on how to develop as a community resource. We are also considering the recommendations in the report of the Schools Plus Policy Action Team on how activities such as study support, involving parents in their children's education, and engagement of the wider community can help reduce failure in the most disadvantaged areas.