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Thursday, 28 February, 2002, 12:28 GMT
Fathers can raise school results
Adam and Peter Yates
Homework help for Adam, 12, from dad Peter
Fathers who are closely involved in their children's upbringing have a positive impact on academic achievement, researchers say.

Benefits of "father involvement"
Better educational attainment
Less likelihood of trouble with police
Good relationships in adolescence and adulthood
Manual workers' sons less likely to become homeless
Children in separated families protected against later mental health problems
A study over four decades has found that the involvement of fathers when children are aged seven is "strongly related to later educational attainment".

The Department for Education on Thursday began a campaign aimed at encouraging fathers to be more involved in their sons' schooling.

It is using a footballing theme, with the slogan Fathers and Sons - A Winning Team, bolstered by the presence of Manchester United and England stars Gary and Phil Neville and their father, Neville.

Helping with homework

The research from Oxford University, due to be published next month, also says that strong father-child relationships can reduce the incidence of mental health problems in later life.

Criminality and homelessness in adulthood were also less likely when a father had been involved in children's upbringing, reported Ann Buchanan and Eirini Flouri at the university's Centre for Research into Parenting and Children.

Peter Yates
Peter Yates: Motivator
But this did not necessarily mean that parents had to stay together - separated fathers could exert a positive influence by becoming involved in activities such as listening to children read or helping with homework.

And step fathers were also found to provide a boost to children's learning.

Peter Yates regularly helps his 12-year-old son Adam with his homework.

"He needs that motivation that a father can bring.

"His mum obviously gets involved as well but lads basically need a bit more of a kick to get them going," Mr Yates said.

Work-life issue

The research findings were based on a study of 17,000 children born in 1958, who were tracked through stages of their lives.

Involvement was identified by factors such as sharing an equal role to mothers in managing children, taking an interest in their children's education and going on outings with them.

The researchers say the findings have "important implications for work-life balance" and that workplaces should be more "father friendly" in allowing parents to have time with their children.

A survey commissioned by the Department for Education - also due out in March - suggests that only 12% of men claimed to be more involved than their partner in their children's education, compared with 72% of women.

But three quarters of the men with school-aged children said they would like to be more involved.


The Minister for Young People and Learning, Ivan Lewis, launched the football-branded campaign encouraging fathers in England to be involved in their sons' education at Trafford Park in Manchester.

Ivan Lewis MP
Ivan Lewis: "Vital to re-engage boys"
"Dads often have a special bond with their sons, and we need to draw on this to help boys in their first few years at secondary school," Mr Lewis said.

"We hear a lot about boys underachieving at school, so it is vital that we help to redress the balance and re-engage boys at an early stage."

Footballer Gary Neville, said: "Sport has always played a huge role in our family, and right from day one Dad got us involved.

"Dads can really influence their sons by taking an interest in their education and hobbies - this not only improves their performance at school, but creates a healthy atmosphere at home."

Neville Neville:
Neville Neville: Supportive father
The campaign has the backing of Fathers Direct, an information centre for fatherhood.

Its chairman, Nottingham University professor Sir Robert Salisbury, said: "Dads want all their children - sons and daughters - to develop to their full potential.

"We have seen the magnificent strides that girls have made recently, showing what can be achieved when they are properly supported.

"This initiative's particular focus on sons and the help dads can give them should help boys to make similar progress in their education."

Wider issues

But others have questioned the focus on boys.

John Sloan, Newpin
John Sloan says fathers need to re-examine their emotions
John Sloan, who works with fathers for the Newpin family support centre, said he could not understand why it had been "genderised".

"It shouldn't be genderised. For example I'm a father, I have a daughter, and I'm actively involved in helping her with her educational development."

The scheme had to be seen as part of a bigger whole.

"Dads have to learn to be more emotionally available for their children," he said.

Telling them to sit down and read with their children was not enough.

"It entails dads re-examining how they were parented and how that impacts on their ability to parent their children."

The BBC's James Westhead
"Research shows dads could make a big difference"
See also:

28 Feb 02 | Features
Learning what it takes to be a man
25 Mar 99 | Education
Fathers told to do the write thing
12 Jun 01 | Education
Fathers help pupils achieve
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