Family and school influence achievement

Children's academic achievement can be affected by both instability in the home and the type of school they attend. This is the suggestion of a new study published in the journal Sociology and Education, which noted learning establishments can differ significantly regarding their socio-demographic composition.

According to the investigation, those who go through repeated changes in family structure status are less likely to perform well when attending a school that has a high 'academic press' - an establishment that is defined by result-oriented values, targets and specific standards of achievement.

Shannon Cavanagh, a Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Texas noted that while pupils in a school with high academic press, regardless of their family showing any signs of instability histories, "are higher achieving in terms of course-taking compared to their peers overall, students who have experienced repeated family structure changes lose some part of their advantage".

Professor Sue Hallam, Chartered Psychologist, commented: "There is a great deal of evidence that disruption to normal routines of any kind can impact on attainment in school as students may be distracted from their learning.

"Instability at home can be one such factor. The extent to which schools have systems in place to support students facing challenging home situations is variable.

"Where schools identify problems early and put in place appropriate support the impact on attainment can be minimised."