Text Parents About Homework to Boost Exam Results – Study
Researchers found efforts such as joining Scouts or exposure to classical music led to little or no impact on attainment
Texting parents about their children’s homework proved to be cheaper and more effective in improving exam results than a series of other efforts, including joining the Scouts, exposure to classical music or individual tuition over the internet, according to new research.
Trials funded by the Educational Endowment Foundation found no substance in a number of myths, with most of the studies showing little or no impact in terms of attainment even if several resulted in improved self-confidence and teamwork.
One of the studies found that paying parents £30 to attend school meetings resulted in much improved attendance, compared with other parents who were unenthusiastic about going to a “parenting academy” to help support their children’s learning at home.
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Researchers concluded that “financial incentives are an effective way to engage and retain parents in programmes of this type”.
But the most cost-effective result came from a programme run by academics from Bristol and Harvard universities that sent weekly texts to parents alerting them to upcoming tests, missing homework and updates on subjects being studied in their children’s classes.
“We know that it can be very difficult to get parents more involved, particularly when their children get older,” said Kevan Collins, chief executive of the Education Endowment Foundation.
“It would seem that the simple and cheap approach of regular texts could be a better bet for schools than expecting parents to turn up at school for classes of their own.”
The texting trial involved 15,700 students in years 7, 9 and 11 attending 36 secondary schools in England, with the schools sending an average of 30 texts to each parent during the course of the academic year – about one a week.
“Parents reported general satisfaction with the frequency, content, and timing of the texts, and in the majority of cases talked to their children about the information they were receiving via text from the school,” researchers said.
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While improvements in maths were found to be small – the equivalent of one month’s progress – the researchers said the texts were made worthwhile by the relatively low cost and ease of administration, costing just £7.55 per pupil for the first year, including training for staff involved, and falling to £3.25 per pupil per school in subsequent years.
The study also found a reduction in absenteeism of an average of half a day per year among the pupils whose parents were involved, which puzzled researchers.
“The positive effects of the programme in relation to a reduction in absenteeism was surprising given that no texts related to attendance were sent, and is perhaps related to the increased monitoring by parents of children’s school-related activities overall, creating an environment in which pupils felt less able or willing to truant,” the researchers wrote.
The texts also caused small positive effects in English, but researchers had to discard the results because of missing data. But the project made no improvement on attainment in science.
Other studies funded by the foundation were less successful, including one that looked at the effects of children taking part in uniformed youth groups such as Scouts, Guides and Sea Cadets. It found only a small improvement in self-confidence and teamwork among those involved, but no improvement on school work.
A project run by Manchester’s Hallé Orchestra, using qualified teachers to give out-of-school music lessons to children, also found no improvement in academic ability over the course of a year, although it did find improved social skills.
Evaluators from York and Durham Universities also found that one-to-one tutoring of pupils over the internet by trained maths graduates in India and Sri Lanka had no impact on their maths results.
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