Family Learning

Learning in families helps adults and young people from all backgrounds to progress and achieve


Approximately 12.6 million adults in the UK lack digital skills which are essential for full participation in 21st century society: for work, for life and for learning. By 2015, approximately 90% of all jobs will require basic ICT skills, yet an estimated 80% of people with low levels of education lack these skills and are more likely to be socially disadvantaged, suffer from isolation, have lower incomes and have children who underachieve at school. As technology evolves, more advanced digital skills are needed for people to remain in employment or progress in their careers.

Current education systems are failing to prepare people with the skills they need to thrive in the digital economy, as advances in technology put 10m low skill jobs at risk of redundancy in the next 20 years. If not addressed, uneven distribution of digital skills will compound the effects of social disadvantage. Digital skills are also essential to participate in learning, as technology can overcome barriers of geography, physical condition and finance, changing what, where, when and how people learn.

Our Policy Asks

Learning and Work Institute recognises the benefits of technology to widen participation in learning and the necessity for everyone to develop their digital skills.

We want:

  • Opportunities for everyone to develop the digital skills they need for future employment and to remain in employment.
  • To ensure that technology offers more learning for more people, especially those who could benefit most, including those who are most disadvantaged and excluded.
  • Support for people of all ages and backgrounds to use technology to fully participate in life, work and learning.

Raising young people's attainment

Family learning can increase children's attainment by as much as 15 percentage point and narrow the gap between the lowest and highest achievers. The Inquiry into Family Learning in England and Wales - Family Learning Works - recommends that all schools should include family learning programmes to increase children's levels of attainment at school, to prepare them for the rapidly changing labour market, and to help secure a prolonged economic recovery.

The film on the right is about Robin Hood Primary School and the transformative impact that family learning has on the aspirations of parents and children.

We have developed a guide for head teachers and school governors which provides evidence of the positive impact of Family Learning on families. The guide shows why teachers need to invest their Pupil Premium funding in Family Learning, to deliver provision which achieves strong outcomes for disadvantaged families. You can download the Pupil Premium and Family Learning guide here.

Wider benefits

Family learning is a powerful way of enabling people to take their first steps back into education. It's a valuable progression pathway to higher level skills and jobs. There is a range of evidence which demonstrates how Family Learning contributes to improving employability, attitudes and progression which we have summarised here.

In 2015-16, we set out to show how Wider Family Learning can have a direct impact on the employability of parents/carers. We worked with Family Learning providers to develop, pilot and evaluate innovative Family Employability programmes. The pilots were a huge success, with one in six learners getting a new job, more than one in five starting to volunteer on a regular basis, and over half feeling more confident about getting a job and applying for jobs. In addition, parents/carers had clearer career goals and realistic plans to achieve them. "Increasing the Employability of Parents and Carers" presents the findings of the pilot evaluation with key recommendations for policy and practice.

Influencing policy

We support the development of family learning as a universal offer across England and Wales, identifying new proposals for the family learning budget with improved connections to other types of learning and evidence of progression. We take forward the recommendations of our Family Learning Inquiry through the National Family Learning Forum and FLLAG (Family Learning Local Authority Group), working closely with Campaign for Learning, LEAFEA and Holex.

The Family and Community Engagement Toolkit produced by Welsh Government for Schools highlights the value of working with parents and families and the need to help build the skills of adults so that they are able to take an active role in supporting their children's attainment.

Work and resources

Our recent National Family Learning Conference "Changing Lives" showcased the use of technology in Family Learning programmes and featured:

  • Our Digital Families programme, which used digital tools to increase families' employability, literacy and progression in Maths. Acess our Digital Families webinar here
  • Our Family Robotics Programme which worked with Family Learning Providers and Brighton Maker Club to increase the skills, confidence and attitudes of young people and their families about future digital skills.

The conference took place in the presence of HRH the Princess Royal, where she shook hands with a robotic arm built by a ten year old learner.

We produced Family Learning resources in collaboration with CBeebies, the BBC's flagship television station and online facility for young children. Our ten downloadable modules include session plans and resources for Early Years and Family Learning practitioners, which can be used as a stand-alone course or flexibly as part of other sessions.

With the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, we developed and piloted new and engaging ways of delivering Family Numeracy programmes. Six pilots worked with community organisations to engage new learners, using new technologies to target families that are hardest to reach with the lowest levels of numeracy skills. You can find more information and teaching and learning resources, on our dedicated New Models for Family Numeracy website.


Want to know more?

To find out more about any of the work mentioned on this page, or to join one of our networks, please contact:

Susan Easton, Head of Digital Learning


Twitter: @susaneaston