In recent years, educational research has highlighted the importance of understanding children’s learning as embedded in the social, cultural and family contexts in which it occurs (Alanen, Brooker and Mayell, 2015). This has led to an increasing focus on the role of parents and the ‘home learning environment’, and many studies have identified the profound influence these may have on children’s learning and development both within and beyond formal educational settings (Hayes, O’Toole and Halpenny, 2017). Extensive international research shows that children do better when their parents are actively involved with their education (Borgonovi and Montt, 2012; Desforges and Aboucaar, 2003; Emerson, Fear, Fox and Sanders, 2012; Goodall and Vorhaus, 2008). Thus, designing learning environments to maximise opportunities for bridging communication between children’s home and school may be a significant factor in educational outcomes (O’Toole, Kiely, Mcgillacuddy, O’Brien and O’Keeffe, 2019). Located within an understanding of the rapidly changing national, international and cross national contexts in which education is enacted, such approaches can facilitate the development of transformational agency within education (Hayes et al., 2018).
This paper shares the initial findings of a study of parental involvement, engagement and partnership in their children’s education during the primary school years, which is funded by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) and the National Parents Council (NPC), and is being conducted by researchers from Marino Institute of Education. The research involves three phases: an extensive review of the national and international literature on parental involvement, engagement and partnership; qualitative research conducted with parents, children and teachers in five case study schools in Ireland; and the development of support structures for teachers and parents to collaborate with the aim of meeting the learning outcomes of the Primary Language Curriculum. This paper will share the key findings of Phase 1 of the research, the literature review. Findings emphasise the crucial nature of relationship-building for parental involvement, the importance of acknowledging diversity and individual needs / strengths, and the role of non-judgmental support for the development of enriching home learning environments for children. The role of homework is specifically deconstructed as a means of supporting home-based learning.