Ofsted highlights the value of family learning

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Storytelling, ‘reptile’ days and using Dr Who to boost literacy and maths skills are just a few of the ways schools, children’s centres, and early years settings encourage families to learn together.


In Adult Learners’ Week (14-20 June) Ofsted has published a series of case studies to showcase innovative examples of family learning projects throughout England.

As part of a joint initiative with the National Institute of Adult Continuing Learning (NIACE), Ofsted visited providers chosen to demonstrate specific approaches to activities where children and parents learn together.

Ravensthorpe Community Childcare and Kirklees local authority were involved in a six-month project, funded by the University of Sheffield, involving three bilingual pre-school settings to support children’s early language and literacy skills and the adults' chances of finding a job. The nursery was concerned that that the most disadvantaged children, who were also from families who spoke English as an additional language, had delayed language and communication skills. Staff made home visits to isolated parents or those who were unable to come to the centre, so that they could take part in the home learning activities. Parents wrote about the learning that their children did at home by using the ‘I would like to share with you’ sheets.

A bilingual families booklet helped parents to build daily activities into their routines, for example using songs and rhymes. Events included food tasting to describe whether foods were 'spicy' or 'sweet', and a maths bus. Follow-up events, such as a ‘reptile’ day, encouraged fathers to take part.

In Dudley, the adult and community learning team worked with Wren’s Nest Primary School and Children’s Centre, in a ward that is within the 10 per cent most deprived in the country. Family learning is part of the school culture and some pupil premium funding is also used to subsidise some adult learning programmes to raise parents’ skills. Tutors offer courses such as ‘play and language’ to the parents of EYFS children, who are also able to use the childcare provision. The ‘Looking Glass’ project is a training and resource centre used to support the professional development of early years practitioners, as well as family learning programmes.The ACL team also organise topical events, such as a ‘Dads’ Bake off’ cooking class to break down gender barriers and boost boys’ attainment.

dr-who-family-learningInspired by the 50th anniversary of Dr Who, seven- to ten-year-olds in Nottinghamshire and their parents took part in a six-week course after-school that incorporated basic science, technology, engineering and maths skills, as well as communication skills. Activities included designing and making monsters, exploring circuits in model Daleks, and using maths skills to make a template for a Dalek base.

Some of the schools involved found a ‘noticeable difference’ in the boys’ interest in reading, while one dad said that the course helped him build a better relationship with his son.

Deputy chief executive of NIACE, Carol Taylor, said, ‘The case studies prove how valuable Ofsted believes family learning is to children’s attainment in school. They will also reassure headteachers that Ofsted will support the use of the pupil premium, and other funding, to develop the skills of both children and adults through family learning programmes.

‘We have been extremely pleased that Ofsted chose to work with us to raise the profile of family learning, and recognise the excellent and innovative practice happening across the country.’

The family learning providers visited were: Kirklees Council Adult and Community Learning & Ravensthorpe Community Childcare; Hampshire County Council; Booktrust; Nottinghamshire County Council; Leicester Adult Skills & Learning; Westminster City Council; and Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council.

  • Download the case studies here
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