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Many parents lack skills to help with homework

· Survey finds seven in 10 wary of helping children · Adults urged to brush up basic maths and English

Many parents admit they are baffled by their children's homework and lack the confidence to help out as much as they would like, according to a survey published today.

Nearly one in five parents said they were regularly surprised by the difficulty of the work their children brought home to complete, the survey commissioned by the Department for Education and Skills found. And nearly seven out of 10 said they would spend more time helping with homework if they were more confident in their own abilities in maths and English.

The survey, carried out for the government's Get On campaign, which encourages adults to brush up their basic skills, is calling on parents to gain the confidence to help their children by signing up for a free course. More than nine out of 10 parents agreed that helping their children at home made a difference to their academic achievements at school.

The survey is published the day before the publication of GCSE results and amid fresh concerns about whether the education system gives young people sufficient grounding in basic, but essential, literacy and numeracy skills. According to official figures, 5.2 million adults lack the English skills expected of a 14-year-old and 14.9 million would be unable to match a typical 14-year-old at maths.

Phil Hope, minister for skills, said: "There are still many adults who struggle with their maths and English skills and as a result may experience difficulties in helping their children with homework. This doesn't have to be the case - there are hundreds of free courses up and down the country where adults can brush up their maths and English skills in a friendly, supportive environment.

As a dad I'm fully aware of what a difference it can make to be able to help your children with their learning, so I call on all parents to think about whether they could benefit from improving their skills

a little."

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