Last Updated: Wednesday, August 18, 2021

What is Family Learning?

What is this?

Family learning is an approach to engaging families in learning outcomes that have an impact on the whole family. In order to support a consistent understanding of family learning Education Scotland have published a number of documents, reports, case studies and resources. Download the postcard for the current definition of family learning in Scotland.

Who is this for?

This will be most relevant for practitioners delivering family learning outcomes such as those working in CLD, the Third Sector, teachers, early years etc.


PDF file: Family Learning postcard (968 KB)

How was the research carried out?

The definition of family learning in Scotland was developed after a series of consultation events throughout Scotland. Those involved in the process worked across sectors and were employed in a variety of positions. After an extensive process it was ratified by the National Family Learning Network of Practitioners in Scotland.

Family Learning encourages family members to learn together as and within a family, 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).

There are eight values that underpin the Family Learning National Occupational Standards. These are:

  • Family learning recognises the role of the parent as the first educator.
  • Family learning is inclusive and is to be offered as a universal provision with open access.
  • Family learning recognises and values diversity of culture, race, relationships and beliefs.
  • Equal partnership is the basis for all developments in family learning: all learners and educators, regardless of generation, recognise that learners and educators can frequently exchange ideas.
  • Family learning recognises that it is acceptable to make mistakes, which are part of the process of reflective learning.
  • Achievements within family learning benefit the wider learning community through promoting change and empowering individuals and communities.
  • Family learning raises aspirations and all outcomes of the process, including those which may not be overt, are of equal significance and importance.
  • Family learning operates within a culture of mutual respect for individuals, communities, colleagues and organisations.

What are the strengths of the research methodology?

Features of highly-effective practice:

  • Creative approaches are used to engage families.
  • Almost all those engaged in family learning courses are highly-motivated and actively involved in their own learning and development.
  • Almost all the children and their parents are included, participating, achieving and progressing very well in their learning.
  • There is clear evidence that the life chances of those families experiencing particular challenges are being improved as a result of their engagement in family learning.
  • Almost all learners report improvement in their health and/or wellbeing.
  • Family learning is responsive to identified needs.
  • Staff have an appropriate shared understanding of Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) and use these approaches to meet the needs of families.
  • Family learning promotes equality, fairness and diversity.
  • There is evidence that family learning is supporting families to minimise the impact of poverty on learning and achievement.
  • Participation in family learning courses are monitored robustly to highlight trends and support effective early intervention strategies.
  • Families are matched into the right programme which is negotiated and addresses identified needs. Families know that whatever their needs they will be able to access the right support that will enable them to reach their full potential as individuals and as a family.
  • Family learning is leading to stronger home-school links which are improving outcomes for learners.

What is the context for this research?

Clear understanding of family learning as an approach.

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?