Father’s education level strongest factor in child’s success at school – study

The Guardian is reporting research that suggests a father’s level of education is the strongest factor determining a child’s future success at school, creating a ‘self-reinforcing cycle of poverty and lack of achievement passed down from parents to children in Britain’…

The report from the Office for National Statistics claims that children are seven and a half times less likely to be successful at school if their father failed to achieve, compared with children with highly educated fathers.

A mother’s education level was important to a lesser degree, with a child approximately three times as likely to have a low educational outcome if their mother had a low level of education.

The ONS research found that low levels of education are the most significant reason for the persistence of poverty in the UK, with those with a low level of educational attainment being almost five times as likely to be in poverty as those with a high level of education.

Helen Barnard, policy and research manager at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said there was little evidence that the cycle of poverty and educational outcomes was caused by low aspirations among poor families.

“But there is evidence that children and parents from poorer backgrounds develop lower expectations as children grow older – they stop believing that their children will be able to achieve high ambitions, or do not know how to help them do so,” Barnard said.

Previous studies have observed the link between parent-child levels of education success, but the size of the father’s attainment level on a child’s education is more marked than most earlier research.

The data reinforces the ONS’s finding that British society has low levels of earnings mobility across generations, one of the findings of its report on intergenerational transmission of disadvantage in the UK and European Union.

Conor Ryan, director of research at the Sutton Trust, said the ONS work was in line with his organisation’s own findings on weak social mobility in the UK, with mobility declining for those born in 1970 compared with those born in the 1950s.

“This report shows just how important education is in breaking that cycle of poverty across generations and ensuring that poor educational achievement is not transmitted from parent to child,” Ryan said…

More at: Father’s education level strongest factor in child’s success at school – study


Are you surprised by the apparently stronger link between fathers’ educational outcomes and that of their children compared with the impact of their mothers’ levels of achievement? Maybe it is because a father’s level of success might traditionally have had more of an impact on family income and this is the significant factor in how well children do? But, overall, what is this research actually telling us? High achieving fathers are more likely to have high achieving children who in turn are likely to be better off? We probably know that don’t we? Please tell us what you make of the findings in the comments or via Twitter…


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  1. EnterpriseBham

    hilarywilce SchoolsImprove – I agree high aspirations for children is essential. Perhaps being a pushy parents isn’t a totally bad thing

  2. VictoriaJaquiss

    SchoolsImprove Whatever research, teachers left 2 own devices & yrs of exp identify a child’s needs & approach. Collect all data you want.

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