Parental engagement and family learning

Parents, carers and families are by far the most important influences in a child's life. Their support can play a vital role at all stages of education.

Parents who take on a supportive role in their children's learning make a difference in improving achievement and behaviour. The active involvement of parents can help promote a learning community in which children and young people can engage positively with practitioners and their peers.

This page provides definitions of what is meant by the terms parental engagement and family learning, together with information about how Education Scotland supports improvement in these areas.

Parental engagement

Parental engagement is recognised in the National Improvement Framework as one of seven key drivers in achieving excellence and equity in Scottish education. The engagement of parents and families can help raise attainment for all and help to ensure every child has an equal chance of success. The National Improvement Framework parental engagement driver includes actions to support improvement in parental engagement, parental involvement and family learning.

The term parental involvement relates to the involvement of parents and carers in the life and work of the early learning and childcare setting or school. This can include parent representation on Parent Councils or associations, involvement in establishment self-evaluation and improvement work, and volunteering with fundraising activities or by sharing skills and knowledge to enrich the curriculum.

The term parental engagement most commonly refers to parental (and family) engagement in their children’s learning. This engagement can be at an early learning and childcare setting or school, in the home or the wider community.

Family learning

Family learning encourages family members to learn together, with a focus on intergenerational learning. Family learning activities can also be specifically designed to enable parents to learn how to support their children’s learning.

'Family learning is a powerful method of engagement and learning which can foster positive attitudes towards life-long learning, promote socio-economic resilience and challenge educational disadvantage.'
(Family Learning Network, 2016).

Parental involvement, engagement and family learning can helpfully be considered as a continuum shifting from a focus on parents’ relationship with their child’s schools to a relationship with their child’s (and their own) learning.

Education Scotland supports improvement in parental involvement, engagement and family learning through the promotion, development, and provision of a range of learning approaches and opportunities for education practitioners working with children aged 0-18 and their families. We do this in collaboration with external stakeholders, including the national parental organisations and local authorities. We also link closely with those working in adult education.

Since September 2016, Education Scotland’s inspection of early learning and childcare and schools also includes a focus on gathering evidence of the impact of parental engagement in individual establishments.

Related links

Scottish Schools (Parental Involvement) Act 2006 aims to help parents to be:

  • involved with their children’s education and learning
  • welcomed as an active participant
  • encouraged to express their views on education.

It places duties on schools, local authorities and Scottish Ministers to help all parents to be involved in their own child's learning, to be welcomed as active participants in schools, and to be able to express their views on school education generally.

Parentzone Scotland - Education Scotland website providing information and advice to support parents to take an increased role in their child's education and learning.

The National Parent Forum of Scotland

Scottish Parent Teacher Council

Engaging parents and families: A toolkit for practitioners