Last Updated: Monday, June 20, 2022

Review of Family Learning

What is this?

​This Review of Family Learning is the first of its kind in Scotland. Our objective was to consider the available evidence on family learning through research, case studies and consultation with partners. The review was necessary to consider what works well in Scotland, and internationally.

Family learning is an approach that supports improved attainment and excellence and equity which leads to positive outcomes for both adults and children. Family learning is an early intervention and prevention approach which reaches the most disadvantaged communities. Family learning helps close the attainment gap through breaking the inter-generational cycles of deprivation and low attainment. The effects of family learning are known to extend beyond the duration of the intervention and provide lasting impacts and improved outcomes.​

Who is this for?

​It is expected that this research is most relevant to educators working with parents, including schools staff, CLD workers and Family Learning workers and Social Services staff through contributing to a deeper understanding of the factors affecting the abilities of parents to engage with those delivering education and social services.

Practitioners are encouraged to read the executive summary. More information on the review of family learning can be found in the full research document.

​Link(s) to full research article

How was the research carried out?

This review takes stock of the available evidence on family learning. It identifies the benefits of family learning programmes across literacy, numeracy, ESOL (English for speakers of other languages), parental involvement and health and wellbeing. The complexities in evaluating programmes, having a developed workforce and the need for family learning to be embedded into policies and strategies are also discussed.

Examples of family learning have been gathered through case study examples that focus on the different themes as mentioned above. The case studies help provide information on the diversity of programmes being delivered across Scotland as well as further understanding of the family learning approach.

What are the strengths of the research methodology?

In producing this review and collating the findings, Education Scotland considered national and international research evidence, conducted an analysis of current practice in family learning across all Scottish local authorities and gathered case studies from a range of practitioners. Additionally, a series of consultation events and meetings also took place with key stakeholders. Practitioners and researchers across Scotland have engaged with and enthusiastically supported Education Scotland’s work throughout this review and shared examples of family learning in their local areas.

What is the context for this research?

The 2016-17 Programme for Government focuses on a number of themes which include: an education system which provides opportunities for all; empowering people and communities; raising standards in schools; closing the attainment gap; and delivering opportunities to young people regardless of their family background.

Reflective questions

  • To what extent are we sure of what meaningful engagement with families looks like?
  • What evidence do we have that family learning is improving the life chances of the families involved?
  • Are outcomes for children improving as a result of their participation in family learning? How do we know?
  • How is family learning improving their capacity to learn?
  • How can we demonstrate that families are feeling included and that they are participating, achieving and progressing?
  • How is our family learning helping promote the wellbeing indicators? How do we know?
  • How are we ensuring that provision is responsive to the needs of families?
  • How effectively do we use current available data about levels of poverty in our community to help us target interventions?
  • How are we actively promoting equality, fairness and diversity?
  • How effectively do we monitor participation?
  • How well do we match the right programme to the right families?
  • To what extent do all staff understand GIRFEC, the wellbeing indicators and how these can have a positive impact on children and their families?
  • How well are families supported in developing strategies which lead to positive relationships, better learning and better behaviour?

About the authors

Susan Doherty, Education Scotland
Dr Beverley Ferguson, Education Scotland.