Education Secretary backs fathers involvement in education

1 April 2005

Education Secretary backs study showing benefits in pioneer schools that are putting dads into classroom

Not for publication before: 00.01 Tuesday 5 April

Contact: Fathers Direct. Jack O’Sullivan 01608 737125/ 07779 655585
NFPI. Michelle Rowley, 020 7424 3475/ Louise Laing 020 7424 3471

DOZENS of schools are pioneering new ways to involve dads in schooling following research showing the benefits to children, according to a new Government-backed report. Ground-breaking projects include cookery sessions for fathers with their sons and daughters, reading, craft and design, computing and football.

Some schools hold ‘Bring Dad to School’ days to overcome fathers’ traditional reluctance to get involved in what some see as female-dominated’ school life. The report (details below), by the National Family and Parenting Institute, is published today (April 5) at Europe’s largest conference on fatherhood, hosted by Fathers Direct, the UK’s national information centre on fatherhood. It is the most comprehensive study ever made of fathers’ involvement in their school age children’s learning.

The initiatives follow recent Government guidance urging schools to draw dads in. Positive father involvement in children’s learning is associated with better exam results, better school attendance, less criminality, better quality interpersonal relationships and good mental health, says the DfES guidance (See below for details).

Today’s conference at the Institute of Education in London will be addressed by Margaret Hodge, Minister for Children, and also sees the launch of a new Government-backed Fatherhood Quality Mark, a badge of excellence for family services that encourage father-involvement, developed by Fathers Direct, with support from the Department for Education and Skills (See below for details)

Ruth Kelly, Secretary of State for Education, said of today’s study: "I very much welcome this research. It shows just how much fathers matter for children’s educational, emotional and social development. It’s vital that schools engage fathers and build positive attitudes towards their involvement amongst teaching staff. Many schools already do this and we are encouraging schools to do this as a matter of course."

Mary MacLeod, NFPI Chief Executive, said: ’We know just how great kids feel when their dads are proud of them and show an interest in what they are doing. This report helps schools to do their bit in making this happen by making it easier for them to get involved.’

Duncan Fisher, Fathers Direct chief executive, said: ‘Dads, like mums, want the best for their children, but can easily become detached from their children’s education. These initiatives, bringing dads in, are breaking through barriers that fathers face and can radically transform a child’s prospects.”

At Coopers Lane Primary School in Lewisham, south London, headteacher, Steve Davies holds monthly meetings in a local pub , open to all dads but targeted at those with children having difficulties. Out of the meetings has sprung the school’s ‘Dads Matter’ programme : 32 dads have agreed to certain targets, such as reading with their own children every day, helping with homework and some help regularly in the classroom.

Mr Davies said: “Fathers are really scared of coming in to school – they see it as a mother’s job, especially at primary age. They are actually frightened of being an active partner in their own children’s education. They think that is what teachers are there for. This is a way to explore with them the contribution they can make through signing homework sheets, checking reading journals as well as going into the school. The ultimate outcome should be better results for the kids.”

Examples cited in today’s report of innovative projects include:

  • Cookery sessions for dads and their children at Bungay High School, Suffolk, including making a Sunday roast, designed to improve communications skills and shared activities between fathers and children aged seven to 13. 
  • Lads and Dads Book Clubs for teenagers in Hampshire, where secondary schools are working with local libraries to promote reading with fathers and sons. Boys from 11 to 15 share book reading with fathers twice a term after the library has closed to the public. 
  • Howzat!, a cricket programme to involve dads more closely in their sons’ education at Lancashire secondary schools. Cricket-loving boys and their fathers are loaned cricket kit, books and activity cards and encouraged in literacy as well as playing the sport. 
  • Bring Dad to School Day at Kensal Rise primary School, north London, when more than 100 dads – two thirds of the fathers – visited the school before Fathers Day to talk to teachers and work with their children 
  • Super Dads at Pen Pych Community Primary, south Wales, where more than 20 fathers and children regularly take part in joint activities at school, including, craft, design and technology and sport. 
  • Share for Dads at South Haringey Infants School, north London, to give fathers an insight into school life. A group of fathers from Zambia, Somalia, Turkey, Armenia, Bangladesh, Italy and the Caribbean meet weekly at the school on Friday mornings for joint activities with and without their children.

Notes for editors 

To contact headteachers leading these initiatives call Fathers Direct: 01608 737125/ 07779 655585 

  • Fathers’ Involvement in their Children’s Education: a review of research and practice by Rebecca Goldman is published today by the National Family and Parenting Institute, price £21. www.nfpi.org/data/publications 
  • Engaging Fathers: involving parents, raising achievement, guidance to schools from the Department for Education and Skills was published in the Autumn. 
  • The new Fatherhood Quality Mark will be awarded to service meeting the requirements of the Government’s new National Service Framework for Children, which requires PCTs, local authority and children’s services to provide targeted information to all fathers and to gain skills, through training, to work with fathers.
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