Parents' education influences children

A parent's background has more impact on a child's educational achievement in England than in many other developed countries, suggests research published today.

The study, commissioned by the Sutton Trust, found that the gap between the test results of children born to educated parents and those born to uneducated parents was bigger in England than in Australia, Germany and the United States.

Researchers at Essex University's Institute for Social and Economic Research looked at test scores of thousands of children born in 1989/90 and compared them with results of equivalent tests taken by children born at a similar time in other nations.

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The findings show that in England, 56 per cent of children of degree-educated parents were in the top 25 per cent of tests at age 14, compared with only nine per cent of youngsters whose parents left school without any O-levels – a gap of 47 percentage points.

This is twice the equivalent gap seen in Australia (where it is 23 percentage points) and bigger than the gap in Germany, where it is 37 percentage points and in the United States (43 percentage points.)

The researchers also looked at a separate measure – the number of books a child has access to in a home – which is an indicator of parental education.

The study found that in England, children who have access to more than 100 books were 4.7 times more likely to be among the top performers in maths tests at the age of 13, than children who had access to fewer than 100 books.

In Australia, children with access to more books were three times more likely to do well, in the Netherlands they were 3.1 times more likely to do well, and Ontario, Canada 2.9 times.