The professor of human development at the University of Oxford, who was involved with the National Evaluation of Sure Start and the Effective Pre-school, Primary and Secondary Education (EPPSE) project, says that using a character on the popular soap opera to demonstrate good parenting behaviours would be a ‘very powerful learning technique as people learn a lot from what they see their heroes doing’.
His comments were made during the Education Committee’s first evidence session the impact on children of early years education and social policy to feed into its life chances inquiry.
Responding to a question by Thelma Walker, Labour MP for Colne Valley, about the home learning environment and what interventions could help support parents to nurture their children and build strong attachments, Professor Melhuish said, ‘Parenting is essentially a learnt skill. You learn it from the way you were treated by your neighbours and sister.
‘One of the things that happens is clustering of disadvantaged groups in disadvantaged areas where they often learn dysfunctional behaviours from each other. If disadvantaged families were distributed more evenly around the country, then you would get more models of good parenting available and things would improve as a whole. Change the housing policy.’
He added, ‘Another idea is to put a young mother on Eastenders with a young baby and have her demonstrate good parenting behaviours on the screen. I think that would be a very powerful learning technique because people learn a lot of their skills form what they see their heroes doing.’