ABSTRACT

In this survey of published research we review changing patterns in the structure of families and identify trends in parenting and caring for today’s generation of primary school children. We reveal how the reduction in the number of children born, the increase in the proportion of lone parents and the increasing age at which women have their first child have resulted in greater diversity of family forms, and parenting and caring practices. The impact of these changes on primary education is discussed through a review of the impact of government policy in relation to the role of parents and the home-school relationship. We conclude that the diversity in family structures brings with it complex administrative demands for home school communication and a complex array of family relationships for teachers to understand and engage with. The school remains a primary source of community-based support for working parents and carers, although the impact of complex employment arrangements adds to the demands for child care support beyond the school day. The most challenging home circumstance, which cannot be viewed optimistically, is

the increasing number of children living in relative poverty. Poverty remains a significant factor in the lives of many children with the inevitable impact in terms of health and wellbeing and a child’s capacity to engage fully in school activities, both financially and emotionally. Further research is needed into the lives of children and how their complex family

relations, and the caring roles which many children undertake, impact on their education. In reality home-school relationships are between individual parents and individual teachers who both have the interests of the child at heart. Parents are not a homogeneous group but neither are teachers, and attempts to improve the relationship between both groups need to acknowledge the strengths and expertise of both. Teachers need to establish more dialogic links between home and school which build on the support for children’s learning that already exists in the home and community. Further research as to how this can happen would be helpful. The aim of this chapter is to provide a critical summary of the research which iden-

tifies the changes in patterns of parenting and caring in the pre-adolescence years over the past few decades. We examine roles and relationships of parents, carers and teachers in the home-school relationship and review the evidence on the efficacy and problems of different approaches. Part 1 focuses on the changes in the structure and formation of the family which reveal the diversity that now exists in parenting and child-care roles and practice. Part 2 focuses on parenting practices and assesses the impact of these on

children’s welfare and the conditions on which successful primary education may depend. Part 3 reviews the policy context of home-school relationships. Part 4 reviews the research into the home-school interface and the role of the home in supporting pupil learning. We conclude with a discussion of the main challenges for the primary school in managing their approaches to the relationship between parenting, caring and education, and highlight areas which would benefit from future research.