Grandparent education linked to grandkids' exam results

A new study has found grandparents pass their level of educational achievement down through the generations, having a direct effect on their grandchildren’s NAPLAN results.

Researchers led by the Telethon Kids Institute’s found that grandparents with higher levels of education had grandchildren with higher NAPLAN scores in Year 3.

“Most of this relationship could be explained by the fact that parents would also have higher levels of education, as we would expect, however we found grandparents still had a small effect over and above the influence of parents,” the institute’s Kirsten Hancock said.

The researchers found that if a grandparent had high educational attainment, the parent was more likely to have a university degree – but they were also more likely to partner with someone who had the same.

“Because of the way people meet, partner and have families, educational resources tend to get concentrated in a smaller number of families,” Ms Hancock said.

“This turns out to be very good for the grandchildren in these families – the more people in their family with higher qualifications, the better they do on NAPLAN tests.

“By Year 3, children with four or more highly educated family members (that is, both parents and grandparents) were about one year ahead of children with two or three highly educated family members (parents only), and two years ahead of children without any highly-qualified family members.”

Ms Hancock said the research demonstrated that children arrived at school with vastly different family histories – resulting in gaps that presented a significant challenge for schools to overcome.

“Our results make it clear that schools have a really hard task ahead of them when it comes to reducing the gaps between low and high achieving children,” she said.

“Schools do their best to help children overcome disadvantaged circumstances, but given these gaps emerge long before children enter school, there’s a lot of ground to make up.

“It’s a hard job and one that will take sustained investment over a long period, but it’s really important because what happens at school can have lasting impacts over generations.”

The study was published in the latest issue of the Australian Journal of Social Issues.

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