Skip to main content

Research piece

Family Learning Works: The inquiry into Family Learning in England and Wales (2013)

20 Jul 2018

Can family learning help close the skills gap?

The Inquiry into Family Learning was launched in October 2012 to gather new evidence of impact, to develop new thinking, and to influence public policy. Based on the evidence gathered, NIACE published their Family Learning Works report and argue that boosting family learning will help close the skills gap.

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

Family learning matters because parental engagement in family learning has a large and positive impact on children’s learning, giving children greater confidence and self-belief, with measurable benefits to their literacy, language and numeracy skills. It matters because for parents – especially those parents who are considered ‘hardest to reach’ – the wish to better support their children is often the key motive in overcoming any practical, financial or dispositional barriers to learning. Just as importantly, family learning matters because it is a source of stimulation, joy and solidarity for adults and children alike. Disadvantaged adults can be brought back to learning, and encouraged to develop through their families. Parental involvement in school is more than four times as important as socio-economic class in influencing academic performance

The inquiry makes 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 to 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.