Family Learning

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


‘Family learning’ refers to any learning activity that involves both children and adult family members, where learning outcomes are intended for both, and that contributes to a culture of learning in the family.

Family Learning, results in multiple benefits for adults and children, especially for families which are most disadvantaged and excluded from society.

Family learning reduces the cost of supporting vulnerable families, through improved health and well-being, increased engagement with society, positive attitudes to learning , greater confidence and employability for adults, improvements to young people’s development and attainment.

Our work takes forward the recommendations of our Family Learning Inquiry, focussing on practice, research and development to provide evidence to policy makers which makes an irrefutable case for family learning.

Learning and Work Institute believes that Family Learning changes lives, and are committed to building better integration of family learning into the new localism, for more coherent planning and delivery.

Our Policy Asks

  • Family learning should be integral to school strategies to raise children’s attainment and to narrow the gap between the lowest and highest achievers.
  • Family learning should be a key element of adult learning and skills strategies to engage those furthest from the labour market
  • Family learning should be integral to school strategies to raise children’s attainment and to narrow the gap between the lowest and highest achievers, especially through family English and maths provision.
  • 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.
  • Key government departments should include family learning in their policies and strategies in order to achieve cross-departmental outcomes.
  • The governments of England and Wales should regularly review the funding for and supply of family learning against potential demand.
  • 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.

Our big idea is the Citizens’ Curriculum: an innovative, holistic approach to ensure everyone has the English, maths, digital, civic, health and financial capabilities they need. The Citzens' Curriculum taps into what motivates adults to learn, through giving learners a voice in co-designing curriculum content and careful contextualization, ensuring that more people are learning skills which are relevant to their lives and their work. We want cities and local areas to commission a Citizens’ Curriculum approach as the Adult Education Budget is devolved and to work with providers and to design provision that embeds this approach.

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

Offenders who maintain family relationships while in custody are 38% less likely to reoffend than those who do not, while, without targeted intervention, there is a high risk that learned patterns of behaviour are likely to be passed on to the next generation. Learning and Work Institute has worked with family learning providers and prisons to produce “Family Learning In Prisons” – a resource for prison governors, staff and educationalists which identifies the types of family learning programmes currently on offer and summarises evidence demonstrating that Family Learning has a positive effect on offenders and their families.

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