Educational Aspirations and Parental Engagement


8th February 2013

Schools and policy-makers in England put a lot of effort into ‘raising aspirations’ to  increase achievement among disadvantaged pupils. However, this is based on false assumptions about low aspirations – the real challenge for disadvantaged young people is achieving their aspirations.
In this “Viewpoint” report for the Joseph Rowntree I share examples of how schools are focusing on this area. You can download the report here.
Competing models of aspirations
The crux of my argument is that we should shift from Model A to Model B:


Parental engagement

We should engage with parents to help them understand what their children’s aspirations involve and what will help achieve them.

Engagement is most effective when:

  • It is collaborative, builds strong relationships and focuses on learning.
  • Schools meet parents on their own terms by tapping into their needs and interests, creating environments that feel comfortable to them and involving other members of their community.

Where other interventions are used, they should focus on keeping pupils’ aspirations on track rather than just ‘inspiring’ them. Such strategies might include :

  • High-quality careers advice, work experience and work-related learning.
  • Skilled, learning-focused mentoring.

I have also written a blog for The New Statesman cautioning against using the myth of “poverty of aspirations” to explain away poverty.