by Susan Doherty
A brief history of Family Learning and how it links to Adult Learning in Scotland…
Family Learning encourages family members to learn together as and within a family, with a focus on intergenerational learning. Family learning activities can also be specifically designed to enable parents to learn how to support their children’s learning.
‘Family learning is a powerful method of engagement and learning which can foster positive attitudes towards life-long learning, promote socio-economic resilience and challenge educational disadvantage’ (Family Learning Network, 2016).
To highlight the amazing work in family learning during Adult Learning Week I thought it would be good to reflect on where we have come from and all of the hard work that practitioners have done to get us to where we are today…
In 2016 we worked with practitioners, researchers, policy colleagues and stakeholder/partner agencies to write the Review of Family learning in Scotland. This document set out to capture what practice, research, policy and strategy looked like at that time and set out some key recommendations to take forward. These recommendations formed the building blocks of what family learning looks like in Scotland today.
At its core family learning is an approach to engaging families in learning outcomes that have an impact on the whole family. It can support improved attainment, attitudes towards lifelong learning, health and wellbeing, confidence etc. which leads to positive outcomes for both adults and children. Family learning is a negotiated process born out of the needs of families and the individuals within them. It builds the capacity from where people are and celebrates in their successes. Although universal, family learning can be used as an early intervention and prevention approach which reaches the most disadvantaged communities and can help close the attainment gap through breaking the inter-generational cycles of deprivation and low attainment. For adults this can be the first step to re-engage with their own learning and help them to support their child’s.
Since 2016 we have developed the Family Learning Framework and informed the Engaging parents and families – A toolkit for practitioners. Family learning is also present in the ELC Realising the Ambition, CLD Adult Learning Statement of Ambition, and HIGIOS 4 and HGIOELC documents. This highlights the breadth of where family learning can and does have an impact – from early learning to adult learning. Practitioners have shaped all of these documents and their voices can be heard throughout.
Engaging families in a family learning programme can have an impact on their immediate identified need however through research we also know it can extend beyond the duration of the intervention and provide lasting impacts and improved outcomes.
In practice family learning can take many forms which is driven by the needs of the families. Family learning practitioners are creative, nurturing and responsive to the needs of their families and understand their communities and the challenges that they face. They almost always work in partnership which supports robust services that have strong referral pathways for further learning as appropriate. Practice has shown us that practitioners value the time families spend together over a coffee to chat and build relationships and fun is the magic ingredient that keeps them coming back.
We have many wonderful case studies that we can share with you from across Scotland and we would encourage you to look for more on the National Improvement Hub. Here are just some that you may find interesting:
- Collaborative family learning approach to working with ESOL parents through storytelling – Glasgow Clyde College
- STEM Family Learning – Larbert High School, Falkirk
- PIZZA family learning- Whole School Approach to Family Learning Renfrewshire Partnership
- Dundee Family Literacies – Learn with Fred
- Using a Family Learning approach to Safe Play in Royston, Glasgow. – Family Learning Team
For more information on Family Learning, Parental Involvement/Engagement and Learning at Home, or to share your practice, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org and/or email@example.com