Interview - Dr Lynne McKenna and Dr Joan Goss

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Dr Lynne McKenna, principal lecturer and Dr Joan Goss, senior lecturer at Northumbria University.


Dr McKenna and Ms Goss are members of a team who carried out a study to evaluate the social impact on parents and children of the Wider Family Learning Programmes run by Sunderland Football Club's Foundation of Light.

How does the club work with children and their families?

The Foundation uses the power of football to involve, educate and inspire children and their families across the North East through a number of programmes. The Wider Family Learning Programmes are run in early years settings and schools and throughout Sunderland, South Tyneside and County Durham.

For children aged three to five and their parents/carers, the Foundation of Light runs 12-week programmes Little Dribblers and Kickz, which link football and play with education.

What did the study involve?

Along with eight academics from the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, we evaluated the impact of involvement in wider family learning on parents, children, and their communities. Forty-five parents and 12 children from four early years settings and schools in Sunderland participating in the programmes were involved in the research.

What impact did the programme specifically have on parents/carers?

Involvement in the courses increased parents' confidence and self-esteem. This led to improvements in both physical and mental health and better relationships with their children, others in the community and their child's setting or school.

The wider family learning programmes, which used football as a hook to involve the parents, also proved very popular with dads and male carers.

And the benefits to children?

Children enjoyed spending one-to-one time with their parents and sharing their 'school life'. The impact also extended to their home life, with children reporting that they now spend more time together as a family enjoying leisure activities.

What are the long-term impacts of the programmes?

Previous research has shown that parental involvement in the early years has a significant impact on children's cognitive development and literacy and numeracy skills.

The National Institute of Adult Continuing Education is currently conducting a year-long inquiry into the impact of family learning. The report, Social Impact Assessment of SAFC Foundation of Light's Wider Family Learning Courses, will be launched at an event on 14 March at Northumbria University.

For more information about the Foundation of Light visit: or email

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