What is family learning and why is it important?

What is a family?

Families come in all shapes and sizes; each one is unique. We believe in a broad and inclusive definition of family which includes parents, carers, guardians, grandparents, other relatives, chosen family and of course, children and young people. 

What is family learning?

Family learning is any learning that includes a child or young person and another generation of their family. It is sometimes called ‘intergenerational learning’. The learning taking place can be formal or informal. This includes everything from certified long-term education courses to short family fun activities, and everything in between. Families can learn together anywhere. 

Learning as a family should have clear learning outcomes for both children and adults. Children and adults could have the same learning outcome, sharing a learning experience which increases their knowledge on a specific subject or develops new skills. Or, children and adults might have different learning outcomes; a parent or carer attending an adult learning course might be developing their parenting skills which allow them to support their child to develop their own skills through homework.

Family learning activities can focus on supporting adults with parenting skills, developing understanding of their children’s learning needs, and improving their own skills to support their child’s development. Activities can focus on children and adults learning a new skill together.

Members of a family can learn together at the same time or separately in different spaces. Or, one member of the family can learn and share their knowledge and skills in the home learning environment.

Why is family learning important?

Family learning has significant impacts for children, adults, and the wider community. It can help families tackle disadvantage and improve their life chances. Taking part in active learning as a family develops confident, lifelong learners who are likely to be happier, healthier, longer living and wealthier.


Family learning has positive impacts on children

Family learning plays an important part in helping children develop essential and life skills and achieve more at school. Families learning together can lead to improvements in children's behaviour, attainment and wellbeing
Children whose parents support their learning through the home learning environment do better at school and in later life. Parental engagement can increase school readiness, improve education outcomes for children, support with education catch-up, help to address attainment gaps and boost social mobility. 


Family learning has positive impacts on adults too

Family learning allows parents to find out how their children learn and understand how to better support them. Adults can learn new approaches to parenting, picking up new skills and parenting styles. This can be beneficial for everyone in a family. Parental involvement in school life can lead to improved parenting skills, with parents ‘better able to manage their children’s behaviour, communicate with them and support their learning at home effectively.’ 


Through family learning, parents can reconnect to learning and transform their lives. For adults that have disengaged from learning, it offers a chance to step back onto the learning ladder – often because they are motivated by wanting to help their children. Family learning programmes can encourage parents to go on to further training, qualifications, and employment. Community learning has a key role in family learning, supporting and empowering adults to make positive changes in their lives through learning. 

Family learning makes a positive difference to the wider community

Family learning helps to develop a learning community, where skills and knowledge are valued by all. It can improve attendance, behaviour, employability and engagement through improved relationships between families and the professionals they engage with. 


The role of those working with families

A wide range of professionals work with families in learning contexts, supporting the development of children, young people and families. This includes teachers, teaching assistants, tutors, early years practitioners, health and social care professionals, librarians, and those working in local government, family hubs, museums, galleries, heritage sites, music venues and arts organisations. 
People who work with families play a crucial role in supporting the development of families who learn together. By providing opportunities for children, young people, adults, and families to engage in family learning they enable all of the benefits outlined above.