If you’ve seen the WEA’s recent impact report you’ll know that we have been discussing the “ripple effect”. When somebody participates in learning it often has unexpected positive effects beyond the aims of the course. Those positive effects can also sometimes reach out to friends, family and the wider community. 

It was very timely then to be approached by the Campaign for Learning to be involved in a new report on the subject of family learning. Parents learning alongside children is a perfect embodiment of the ripple effect. 

Children find that learning can be fun and they carry that enthusiasm into their schools. Parents find the additional motivation to return to learning and balance it with caring responsibilities. Family learning is one of the most powerful and effective forms of community learning. 

Yet it is also one of the most overlooked by funders and policy makers. 

With investment in all forms of community learning falling considerably over the last ten years, family learning has inevitably suffered. The WEA has long campaigned for additional funding for adult education of all types and also for the flexibility to deliver in line with the needs of the community. Funding is too often restricted in what it can be used for and family learning is not always eligible. 

The Campaign for Learning convened a working group to explore the issues and make recommendations. The WEA took part alongside organisations such as Holex and National Numeracy.  

At its conclusion, the group made five recommendations for government. These can read in full here. They include  

  • setting aside ring-fenced funding specifically for family learning 
  • statutory entitlements for fully funded courses for parents and carers 
  • integrating family learning into the work of family support services  
  • a bigger focus on family learning in workforce development in the education sector 
  • An entitlement to state funded childcare to enable parents and carers to take up learning 

Letters outlining the five asks have been sent to Ministers across several relevant departments and their Shadows. One of the challenges of promoting family learning is that the key policy levers fall across several different parts of Whitehall. Similar letters have also gone to the Mayoral Combined Authorities who are increasingly in control of adult education budgets. 

In the early days of a new government (of whatever party) or a new Mayoral term, a commitment to family learning could be a real boost to communities. Bringing policy makers’ attention to the potential of family learning is extremely worthwhile and the WEA is proud to be part of the call to action. 

The Campaign for Learning report can be read in full here and in summary here.

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About the author

Chris Butcher

Public Policy Manager

Chris is the Public Policy Manager at the WEA.