Millennium mothers want university education for their children

15 October 2010

The Millennium generation of UK children may have the most educationally ambitious mothers ever, a new study suggests.

No less than 97 per cent of them want their children to go on to university, even though most did not have a higher education themselves, researchers at the Institute of Education, University of London, have found.

Today, roughly a third of young people in the UK progress from school to higher education. However, that proportion will be much higher in 10 years' time if the mothers of children born in the first few years of the new century get their way, a survey of almost 14,000 families has shown.

The Millennium Cohort Study, which is tracking the development of children born in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland between 2000 and 2002, found that 96 per cent of mothers with the lowest qualifications want their seven-year-olds to go on to higher education. The figure for those with postgraduate qualifications is only slightly higher (98%).

Attendance at parents' evenings is also encouragingly high, say Dr Kirstine Hansen and Dr Elizabeth Jones, who analysed the responses to the study's latest survey. The vast majority of families (93%) had been represented at a parents' evening, and more than half of those who had not attended one said that their school had not yet held such an event.

Most parents also told the researchers that they help their child with their reading, writing or maths homework. Eighty-five per cent of parents with either no qualifications or the most basic certificates said they offer such support.

"The overarching impression from the parental interviews is one of all families, right across the social spectrum, taking an interest in the Millennium children's schooling and aspiring for them to do well," Dr Hansen and Dr Jones say. "This is a positive sign because previous research has shown that parental involvement and interest in their children's education is a strong predictor of later educational success."

The study's latest survey, conducted in 2008/9, also found that the average amount of time that seven-year-olds spend on homework is 86 minutes a week. Seven-year-olds in Northern Ireland appear to do most homework (115 minutes per week on average), followed by children in Scotland (87 minutes), England (84 minutes) and Wales (69 minutes).

In England and Wales it is recommended that children in Years 1 and 2 of primary school should spend one hour a week on homework. In Scotland and Northern Ireland schools are given discretion over homework policy.

The findings appear in a report published today by the Institute of Education's Centre for Longitudinal Studies: Millennium Cohort Study, Fourth Survey: A User's Guide to Initial Findings. Copies of the report can be downloaded from www.cls.ioe.ac.uk/MCSFindings.

 
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Notes for editors

1. The Millennium Cohort Study has been tracking the Millennium children through their early childhood and plans to follow them into adulthood. It covers such diverse topics as parenting; childcare; school choice; child behaviour and cognitive development; child and parental health; parents' employment and education; income; housing; and neighbourhood. It is the first of the nationwide cohort studies to over-sample areas with high densities of ethnic minorities and large numbers of disadvantaged families. Previous surveys of the cohort were carried out when the children were aged nine months, three years and five years. The study is housed at the Centre for Longitudinal Studies at the Institute of Education. It was commissioned by the Economic and Social Research Council, whose funding has been supplemented by a consortium of government departments.


2. Data from the fieldwork for the fourth survey of the Millennium cohort are now available from the UK Data Archive www.esds.ac.uk.


3. The contract for data collection in MCS is awarded under competitive tender to specialist agencies. For three of the four surveys undertaken to date the data collection was carried out by the National Centre for Social Research, who in turn sub-contracted the interviewing in Northern Ireland to the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency. The agency responsible for the second round of data collection was Gfk-NOP, who sub-contracted in Northern Ireland to Millward Brown.


4. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK's largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues. It supports independent, high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and the third sector. The ESRC's planned total expenditure in 2009/10 is £204 million. At any one time the ESRC supports more than 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and independent research institutes.


5. The Institute of Education is a college of the University of London that specialises in education and related areas of social science and professional practice. In the most recent Research Assessment Exercise two-thirds of the publications that the IOE submitted were judged to be internationally significant and over a third were judged to be "world leading". The Institute was recognised by Ofsted in 2010 for its "high quality" initial teacher training programmes that inspire its students "to want to be outstanding teachers". The IOE is a member of the 1994 group, which brings together 19 internationally renowned, research-intensive universities.