Every school must make family learning work

18th October 2013

Every child’s education must include family learning to increase their levels of attainment at school, to prepare them for the rapidly changing labour market and help secure a prolonged economic recovery. This is the headline recommendation of a high-level Inquiry into family learning launched by NIACE on Friday 18 October.


The Inquiry’s report – Family Learning Works – also urges investment in family learning which will help to cut the costs of spending on vulnerable families and that family learning must be integral to any future adult learning and skills strategy to aid sustained economic growth.


The Chair of the Family Learning Inquiry, Baroness Valerie Howarth of Breckland OBE, said:


“We are a nation in a crisis as far as skills and the attitudes to our citizens’ learning are concerned. The recent results of the OECD’s survey of adult skills show that parents’ educational attainment has a stronger-than-average impact on adults’ proficiency in both literacy and numeracy. Adults whose parents have low levels of education are eight times more likely to have poor proficiency in literacy than adults whose parents had higher levels of education. Surely it is a moral outrage that a nation such as ours should be in this position. Evidence shows that family learning could increase the overall level of children’s development by as much as 15 percentage points for those from disadvantaged groups. Family learning has multiple positive outcomes for adults and children, for families and communities. It could, in one generation, change the lives of a whole generation. We would be foolish to miss such an opportunity.”


David Hughes, Chief Executive of NIACE, said:


“Imagine growing up in a home where there are no books, no stories and where your parents don’t have the confidence to help you with your homework. Unfortunately that is a reality for too many children. But this situation can be overcome. Across the country there are examples of family learning programmes which have transformed the prospects for adults and children. But these programmes should not be the exception, they need to be the norm in every school and community. And there is funding available to pay for this through the Pupil Premium. Family learning must be part of a national strategy, formed of local partnerships to give adults and children from all walks of life the opportunities to become learners and reap the wide benefits of learning.


“Throughout the last year our Inquiry has studied evidence that clearly and categorically shows how learning in families helps individuals of all ages to succeed and plays a part in both economic and social renewal. We know from last week’s report from the OECD that UK skills levels are poor in comparison to other nations. We simply cannot afford to have a situation where 1 in 3 children leave school without a good GCSE in English and where eight million adults have difficulties with everyday maths. The impact on families, communities and the economy is something we can no longer afford to ignore.”


The NIACE Family Learning Inquiry is making the following six recommendations:


  1. Family learning should be integral to school strategies to raise children’s attainment and to narrow the gap between the lowest and highest achievers.
  2. Family learning should be a key element of adult learning and skills strategies to engage those furthest from the labour market and improve employability, especially through family English and maths provision.
  3. Every child should have the right to be part of a learning family. Many children grow up in families that can support their learning but some do not. Public bodies should target support to help these families.
  4. Key government departments should include family learning in their policies and strategies in order to achieve cross-departmental outcomes.
  5. The governments of England and Wales should regularly review the funding for and supply of family learning against potential demand.
  6. There should be a joint national forum for family learning in England and Wales to support high quality, innovative practice, appropriate policy and advocacy, research and development.