Family learning covers all forms of informal and formal learning that involve more than one generation, writes Melissa Gardner

At our family learning event were 16 students and 16 parents. There was a vibrant, positive and fun learning atmosphere from the parents and students working together on many different activities. The ultimate aim of the morning was to provide a joint learning venture, allowing parents and children to understand each others’ learning styles and multiple intelligences, as well as demonstrate and practice learning together with new ideas and materials. It is hoped some of these new ideas will allow new shared learning at home.

All students had previously experienced some similar activities on our Super Learning Launch Day held earlier in the term. Students helped their parents work through both the VAK and Multiple Intelligence questionnaires in both sessions.

The evaluation and feedback from the session was inspiring. In the evaluations, all parents stated they would like to see more family learning or parent sessions, including a focus on:

  • Languages
  • Maths and numeracy (parents want to learn the current methodology of teaching maths and several commented on the change to maths learning and teaching since they were at school
  • Literacy
  • ICT
  • Strategies for learning
  • Time management
  • Homework support
  • Team building
  • How to help my child through the various key stages
  • Sport-related or to help with concentration.

As a result of the parents’ requests, we held a six-week evening course on Strategies for Learning and Learning to Learn as a two-hour evening session on Wednesdays. We will then start a ‘Bridging the Language Gap’ evening course for Parents,with a focus on family learning at home.The key language in the first instance will be French (as that’s what I teach), and so will involve both the MFL department at Oakgrove, perhaps some fluent parents and some of the ACE (Adult Community Education) language team. Into 2006-7, we aim to continue with a language course for parents and hope-fully open up another course on numeracy.

All resources and session materials were prepared in advance and led using powerpoint slideshows. We have forged a link with ACE in Milton Keynes LEA and the Widening Participation Co-coordinator to help fund and advertise our family learning activities at Oakgrove. This type of family learning happens in some of our primary feeder schools and so the continuation of shared learning between parent and child is an area secondary schools have the potential to develop. It will allow us as a brand new secondary school to also develop a different aspect of primary transition and improve the flow of learning and teaching ideas between teaching staff, students and parents between Key Stages 2 and 3. 

Find out more about Family Learning at the Campaign for Learning’s website The National Family Learning Network:

Melissa Gardner is Assistant Headteacher for Student Learning at Oakgrove School in Milton Keynes

First published in Teaching Expertise magazine, Issue 11 Spring 2006