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Parents encourage interest in STEM but ill-equipped to help

Most parents feel that interest in STEM subjects is important for their children’s career prospects but find their own knowledge inadequate to be of any help with studies and homework. 

According to a study by energy company E.ON, which polled 2,000 UK parents of children aged five to sixteen, an overwhelming majority (83 per cent) feel that science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects are important for their children’s development. However, up to 41 per cent feel ill-prepared to provide help with homework.

Maths proved to be the least intimidating subject with 61 per cent of parents confident to give guidance. The confidence, however, decreases when it comes to biology (49 per cent), physics (36 per cent) or chemistry (35 per cent).

E.ON is launching a website that aims to support the children and their parents in their quest to conquer STEM. The Energise Anything platform will provide resources for pupils between five and fourteen years of age, and their parents and teachers, to painlessly discover the world of STEM.

“STEM subjects form the basis for a surprising number of different career paths, so it’s vital that we encourage our children to feel confident and engaged with these topics from a young age,” said Suzanne Doxey, community relations manager at E.ON. “Helping kids to feel confident now will help them to feel more positive about maths and science in the future - our research shows that parents’ lack of confidence about these subjects at school has stayed with them and impacted their ability as adults."

The study showed that confidence is the key barrier parents face when trying to spend time helping their kids with homework. On average, each parent spends two hours with their offspring doing homework. Almost a quarter of the parents admitted they avoid helping with homework and prefer their partner to do it or encourage children to ask the teacher. One in seven parents admitted they would rather clean the house or do the washing up than help with homework.

Parents are most confident helping children eight to ten years old (70 per cent). However, that confidence decreases gradually and once children reach the age of fourteen to sixteen, only 51 per cent of parents is still comfortable helping. The situation is better when it comes to maths and considerably worse with other subjects.

“Confidence plays a vital role in helping our children get to grips with STEM subjects, so it’s important to give them a good grounding at a young age,” said engineer and broadcaster Kate Bellingham, who is supporting the E.ON initiative. “When children see that others in the family are willing to explore scientific ideas and improve their own understanding, I’m sure it will empower the children to do the same.”

About 46 per cent of parents admit they would struggle to pass a Key Stage 3 science test usually sat by children at the age of 13 or 14. The same is true for more advanced qualifications, with less than a quarter of parents believing they could pass GCSE physics (24 per cent) or chemistry (23 per cent), although 31 per cent think they could pass biology. 

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