Parenting Vivian | 27 Jan 2011 04:52 pm

Widen Thinking On Plans To Improve Children’s Learning

Parents are being urged to think about their homes as learning environments in light of new government plans to help improve the education of children both in and out of school.

The call has been made by one of the UK’s leading suppliers of children’s furniture in a bid to help parents look at wider factors which contribute towards effective learning.

While the government is focusing on how the parents and extended families have a significant role to play in encouraging children to learn, Aspace is keen to widen the debate to include the importance of the environment in which they learn.

The company’s managing director Paul Cunningham thinks the government has not given enough consideration to the peripheral issues which make a significant contribution to the way children learn.

“There’s no doubt about it, the surroundings in which children learn are an important factor in how they learn,” said Mr Cunningham.

“While it is encouraging to see the government is taking proactive steps to help families think about how they can help their children, they haven’t addressed where they learn in the home.

“Even if you put technology issues – such as proliferation of TVs, DVDs, MP3 players and games consoles – to one side, the home environments for many children can often be awash with unintentional distractions and barriers to learning.

“And this is where a little lateral thought about what constitutes a good home learning environment could contribute an enormous amount to helping potentially millions of children in the UK having better all-round learning experiences.

“We just want to raise the point because we feel it is important that it does become part of the government’s agenda for driving up standards of children’s education.”

The ethos of Mr Cunningham’s company, which sells kids furniture directly to the public via its website and also through its direct mail catalogues, encourages parents to think about the environments they create through the purchases they make.

“Parents don’t realise just how much the furniture they buy sets the tone for how their children use the space in their own rooms,” he said.

“More so than ever before children’s bedrooms are multifunctional in their usage because they are places where they sleep, play, socialise and study.

“Although the parents don’t often recognise it in these terms, kids furniture is both fundamental and pivotal in setting the tempo for how their children behave and react in doing all the things they do in their room.

“And getting the balance right so it is conducive to all these purposes is a hard one and that is why getting the theme of the room and the furniture which reflects them is so important – especially as it may be the only dedicated place in the house where a child has the space to learn.”

The comments by Mr Cunningham reflect the changes he has seen in the industry since the company started five years ago. In that time the company has thrived after spotting a gap in the market to supply furniture which sits firmly between the cheap functional ranges which are available in retail stores and specialist products which are often out of the price range of most families.

It now has a multimillion pound turnover and being in the mid ground has enabled Aspace to source products which are well thought out both in terms of the ergonomic design and the impact they have in determining the atmosphere of a room.

Mr Cunningham argues that good quality kids furniture is not expensive and in a lot of cases it can be extremely competitively priced compared with what is often considered to be the bland and uninspiring bog-standard ranges on offer at large retail outlets.

“There is growing demand for good, well-made products which are well designed to cater for the variety of functions and activities in a child’s bedroom,” he said.

“Coordination is key to this to ensure all the pieces of furniture in the room complement one another so they provide the right functionality so they can be a place to maximise the opportunities of sleep, play and work.”

Mr Cunningham’s remarks come as the government has finished consulting on plans to help parents get involved in their children’s learning as part of its drive to ensure that every child gets the best possible start in life.

The government is pumping ? million into helping local authorities to fund the development of fresh ideas on how to connect with parents and help them to help their children.

Children’s Minister Beverley Hughes said she knows that parents are central to children’s well-being and that children’s experiences in their early years have a major impact on later life.

She added that it is vital that children have a sound basis on which to learn and develop, as well as enjoying time with their parents and that the money the government is making available will see innovative approaches in supporting and encouraging parents to really get involved in their children’s development.

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