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As parents send their children back-to-school prime minister Tony Blair and secretary of state for education and em...
As parents send their children back-to-school prime minister Tony Blair and secretary of state for education and employment David Blunkett joined forces today to underline the vital role of parents as children's primary educators.

At an event with parents and children at Firth Park Community College, Sheffield - to coincide with the publication of new materials for parents and the first parents, guide to the curriculum - Mr Blair and Mr Blunkett said that a new package of materials for parents would open up the secrets of the curriculum in the same way

that performance tables had enabled parents to learn more about how schools were performing.

From today, parents will have:

their own guide to the national curriculum - books for parents of nursery, primary and secondary children show parents what their child is learning at school and why;

a new, free magazine 'Parents & Schools' with practical advice; parents, leaflets on favourite school topics; and

the parents' web site with new features for finding education materials. This will be backed by a national TV campaign

Next week is Parents Online Week (18-22 September) - designed to help parents discover the best educational resources on the internet The new materials are also available

at, the department's website for parents.

Mr Blair said: 'Children spend only a fifth of their time at school - but they spend

three quarters of their time learning. Parents are a child's first educator and it is they who shape children's lives more than any other influence. So it is essential that parents make the most of their power to give children the best possible start. When a parent takes an interest in a child's reading, writing and education it

means the world to that child - and makes a real difference to what they can achieve.'

'It's not always easy for parents to know where to start - but from today every parent will have at their fingertips a 'rough guide' to their children,s education. The books are easy to use and full of ideas for helping children learn - from using your own family,s life story as a history lesson to using the TV remote as a lesson in technology skills.

'In Parents Online Week we will help parents to try the new technology that all our kids are talking about - and to discover some amazing educational websites. Hundreds of schools are organising community events and opening their doors and computer rooms to parents during the week.

'Parents will find everything they need to try their hand at the web, together with useful guidance to make sure their children are using the internet safely.'

David Blunkett explained how the new materials will help parents and teachers:

'The vast majority of parents are keen to support their children's education and back up what they are being taught at school. For too long, education was a secret garden from whichparents felt excluded. While they now have better information in performance tables and Ofsted reports, the day to day curriculum still remains a bit of a mystery to them. Children often come home from school and say they did 'nothing at school today'.

'Today's major new drive brings together a range of media to put parents in the picture. The new free magazine for parents will provide helpful information to parents on topical issues such as bullying, starting school and using the internet safely. New parents' guides to the curriculum takes them through the National Curriculum in primary and secondary schools - from literacy and numeracy to

geography, science and art. A growing series of leaflets on curriculum topics learning about the biology of plants to the Victorians in history offer practical ideas to continue learning whilst on days out or doing things around the home.

'We are making these materials readily available from a range of sources. All will be available from schools and the internet. The guides to the curriculum and the parents magazine can also be ordered free by telephone. And parents magazine will be made more widely available, through major retail outlets, libraries and doctors,


'Our parents, website is being greatly expanded to offer the new materials and a new free magazine will be available on request and through schools to back it all up. This year is the first new intake of the 21 century and parents can expect better information than ever before about learning at school.

'There are some parents who we need to encourage to work more co-operatively with schools and teachers. We will be looking at how to strengthen the work already taking place with families, including mentoring programmes, to tackle the problems of the disengaged and disinterested.

'But for most, we believe this major new package will provide an invaluable resource. Parents are very much a child's primary educator - and are partners with teachers in their child's education.

'Parents' evenings can provide an important opportunity for parents and teachers to work together, but can sometimes be awkward for the parent and the teacher. These books will make things easier, arming parents with everything they need to understand modern school education. The books have been backed by teachers and I know many are planning to use them at events this autumn.

'Parents perhaps worry most about homework and tell us they want more practical tips on how to help their children. The guides to the curriculum have plenty of ideas on supporting children to do the best they can at homework. More help will be provided when our new homework packs for Year 5 and 6 pupils are available later this


A DfEE survey conducted last year by MORI showed high demand from parents for better resources:

one third (32%) of parents surveyed said that when they are helping their child with homework, they worry they may be doing it wrong;

41% of parents saidthey would like more practical help on how to help their child with maths;

30% of parents said they would like more practical help to help with other homework (other than Maths and reading);

66% disagree that it,s just the school,s responsibility to educate their child; of parents surveyed those who felt that 'some of the time' or 'never' did they feel confident in helping their children, 40% said it was because teaching methods are different these days and 35% did not understand much of the homework.


1. Parents can call 0800 389 3899 for materials or log on to

2. Jacqui Smith MP, schools minister, takes part in the first virtual parents evening tomorrow night. From 18.45-19.15 Jacqui Smith will be live online at to answer parents questions about their child's education.

3. Included in the back-to-school package for parents are:

The 'Learning Journey' - Parents' Guides to the National Curriculum

- three Guides (for parents of 3-7 year olds, 7-11 year olds, and secondary pupils) explain the curriculum subject-by-subject. Clear, lively and jargon-free, the guides explain topics such as key stages and National Tests. Every parent can get a guide - either at school parents, evenings, by ordering a free copy (using the magazine call

line or on 0800 096 66 26) or on the web ( Quentin Blake provides the illustrations in the primary guides. Groups of parents, children and teachers have ,road tested, the guides and they have been endorsed by major teaching unions, including: SHA, the NAHT, the ATL, the NUT, and PAT.

Parents and Schools Magazine will address topical issues of interest. The first issue looks at issues like bullying, starting school, literacy and numeracy, and using the internet safely. Copies are available at major retail outlets or tel: 0800 389 3899 minicom 0800 0852248.

The 'Discover' series of National Curriculum leaflets - 12 are launched today and by Christmas there will be 25. The leaflets have extra tips and suggestions for helping children with subjects like Roman Britain or Plants and are designed to be downloaded by schools to be customised and then given them out to parents.

Parents Online Week (18-22 September) - will give parents a chance to see what computers can do for their children's education. The week will include events, offers and activities for parents and many schools will open up their computer rooms to parents. The DfEE - with, Channel 4's Homework High, The National Family & Parenting Institute and - has created a web site to

show parents the best educational resources for their child. The site gives parents a simple guide to using the internet, tips on web sites to try, educational places to go and competitions. Find out more at (note that the full web site does not go live until 18 September).

The parents website - has been newly expanded to give parents even more web power. A School Search already lets parents find information about their local schools, and they can tap into information from the British Tourist Authority to find educational places to go for a day out. The improved website also lets parents search for educational resources on the net. For example, maths help for a seven- year-old

or geography project ideas will be just a click away.

4. Technical note: statistics taken from a MORI survey conducted for the DfEE. MORI conducted 1,000 interviews with a representative sample of parents of 5-11 year olds, 1999. The interviews are 10 mins in length and were conducted between 16 and 21st November 1999. The sample was representative by age, social class and region.

The guides are part of a project to use good design to make the curriculum accessible, based on an idea by John Sorrell and with advice from Sir William Stubbs and Lord Puttnam. Others involved were: quality assurance: QCA; consultancy: Shelagh Wright; editing: c21; design: Atelier Works; illustration: Quentin Blake and Ellis

Nadler; photography: Ed Clark and Mark'ta Luskacov,. DfEE are also developing a children's website about the curriculum, with the BBC.

7. Headteachers who helped develop the guides are T. Andrew (Chesham High, Bucks.); A.. Elliott (Horton Grange, Northumberland); S. Kirkham (Woodrush High, B,ham); J. McNally (St Bernadettes School, B,ham); S. Sayles (Riccall Primary, York; A. Stockley (Landywood Primary, Walsall); P. Taylor (Ellen Wilkinson High, M,cr); and P. Thomas (Tanbridge House, West Sussex). Advice on study skills was also provided by Clive Kempton, HMI, and Professor Sue Hallam of Oxford Brookes University School of Education.

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