Family Learning – 10 top tips from adult and community learning

The NIACE-led independent Inquiry into Family Learning has shone a light on an important aspect of education that has been in the shadows for too long. Family learning is a positive and proven way to tackle educational inequality across generations so it’s good to see that NIACE and Ofsted are now calling for examples of good practice and that the Family Learning Works report is inspiring action instead of gathering dust after its publication.

Family learning - activity

The WEA has a long and successful tradition of working with schools, children’s centres, parents and carers. As a national organisation covering England and Scotland, we work at strategic levels but are also embedded in neighbourhoods.

Ten tips

  1. Develop local networks around each school. Contacts are not enough. Nurture relationships.
  2. Stay in the community for the long haul. Don’t do one project and move on.
  3. Talk with teachers and head teachers about making parents and carers welcome in schools. Work together to deal with concerns about school security and safeguarding.
  4. Agree ground rules for all relationships to avoid misunderstandings or inappropriate behaviour by anyone.
  5. Negotiate the curriculum and learning outcomes so that they are relevant and appealing.
  6. Don’t stereotype or patronise people or make assumptions that might limit their learning.
  7. Enlist successful adult learners as role models and community learning champions to engage others and show what’s possible.
  8. Celebrate achievements of parents, carers and children!
  9. Inspire parents and carers to keep learning, to take the next steps and to motivate their children.
  10. Collaborate. We all need to keep learning and improving.

Our top tips for working with parents and carers in family learning reflect the networked and supportive approaches that we use in general adult and community learning practice. Good quality teaching, learning and assessment are at the core but learning activities are set in a wider context and don’t take place in isolation. They need groundwork, learning support and pointers for moving on.

Do you agree with the list or have you got other ideas?

What works in your practice and what can we learn from, or teach, other sectors?

You can find more about the NIACE and Ofsted joint project on illuminating excellent practice in Family Learning here.

Cooperative problem solving, local democracy and family learning

A better world – equal, democratic and just; through adult education the WEA challenges and inspires individuals, communities and society”.

This is the WEA’s vision. Many people and organisations are working for the same aim and we’re often invited to collaborate with others so that we can make a bigger impact by working together.

I’ve been involved in three separate events in the last couple of weeks with people who recognise that adult education helps to address inequalities for families and communities. These wider aspects of lifelong learning show that education isn’t just for children and young people and isn’t only about preparation for employment – important as that is.

Cooperative Problem Solving

The first event focused on cooperative problem solving. Youth and community organisations, cooperative champions, educators and academic researchers from the UK, USA, New Zealand and Sweden met at the Cambridge University’s Forum for Youth Participation & Democracy. We shared practical examples of effective community-based action to tackle unfairness and we have agreed to work in an alliance, building on shared approaches to cooperative problem solving. People who use Twitter can look out for the #CoopPS hashtag as ideas develop.

YBaCouncillor

I joined WEA volunteer Alan Bruce and manager Jol Miskin at a well-attended meeting organised by Clive Betts MP, Chair of the Department for Communities and Local Government Select Committee. The Select Committee’s meeting was part of a campaign to find out why some people become councillors and what puts others off. A 2010 report on English councillors prompted this campaign as it showed that 96% were white, the average age was 60 and that over two-thirds were male.

The WEA isn’t affliliated to any political party but we have a long tradition – over 100 years – of political education and community engagement, encouraging people to take part in politics, public life and activism, so we have been active in supporting this campaign.

Inquiry into Family Learning

Finally, I attended the first meeting of commissioners for an independent Inquiry into Family Learning, led by the National Institute of Adult and Continuing Education (NIACE) and chaired by Baroness Valerie Howarth, who made sure that the meeting was inclusive and focused.

There’s more information on the Inquiry at:

http://www.niace.org.uk/current-work/family-learning-inquiry

This is NIACE’s introduction to the Inquiry:

“We believe that there is a need for an independent inquiry into this area of work, not only to consider what is meant by ‘family learning’ but to ensure its place at the heart of policy, research and development. NIACE is concerned about the lack of recognition of the value of family learning, its impact on a range of policy areas and of the potential benefits for families and the wider community. We are concerned that the role of parents and carers in supporting their children’s development is not adequately recognised. Supporting children’s development is one of the major motivators that leads to adults improving their own skills.”

The twitter hashtag for the Inquiry will be #familylearninginquiry. Look out for it in coming months.

It’s reassuring to know that there are national networks of people and organisations who are promoting the importance and potential of families who learn together across generations and of education for cooperative living and democracy.

Have you got examples or suggestions of effective cooperative problem solving, engagement in local democracy or family learning – or comments on these approaches?