Wider Family Learning is a cross-cutting strategy to engage reluctant adult learners while involving them more with their children’s learning. Although one in three schools take up Wider Family Learning grants from their local authority, the level of funding available means that many more could successfully apply. Nick Holt takes you step-by-step through an application form

Local councils will have contacted schools at the beginning of May, since the deadline for applications is usually mid June. This e-bulletin edition of Extended Services Update looks at how to complete a typical application form. Despite the length of some WFL application forms, a section can often be completed with just one or two points, so schools shouldn’t feel daunted by the process. Some exemplar answer prompts and suggestions are provided below.

A sample Wider Family Learning application form

1. Do you have suitable accommodation?
Schools don’t necessarily have to have a dedicated adult education room. A play worker or a teaching assistant can work with a small group of parents and children on ’learning through play‘ sessions such as story sacks, arts and craft or music and singing activities. One small primary school cordoned off the end of a corridor. So, for this section, it is enough, to begin with, that the school can make available sufficient tables and chairs for the target number of participants. Eight participating adults and eight children is a reasonable number for a short course of 8 – 12 hours.

2. How will you attract, recruit and retain hard to reach learners and underachieving groups?
This section should describe how WFL can provide a targeted intervention. The application should state that the WFL sessions will be open to all, with specific invitations for parents of children with free school meals, EAL, SEN and other categories of disadvantage. In terms of retention, courses for parents should be in the form of taster learning experiences to promote parents’ confidence and enjoyment of learning.

3. Please use this section to describe in detail your organisation/schools Family Learning Strategy
Here it can be stated that the school aims to work with parents of pupils at risk of underachieving, as well as those parents who do not normally engage in the life of the school.

4. Are you planning to provide childcare facilities? YES/NO If not, can you explain why?
Targeted parents will probably need a crèche for younger siblings, though the school could negotiate places at a local neighbourhood nursery or children’s centre, and include the cost in the WFL application form – see a breakdown of costs below.

5. Please describe your crèche facilities
This section requires the school to meet the national standards for child care, the key aspect being staffing ratios. The WFL funding application could cover: two staff available to cater for up to six children; one member of staff to two children up to the age of two; one member of staff to cover four children up to the age of five.

6. What are you proposing should be the ‘next steps’ for adult learners at the end of your programme?
To avoid the WFL experience being a ‘one-off’, it is sufficient to state that participants will be signposted to other appropriate local provision as identified by the Local Authority’s Family Information Service.

7. Please indicate that you are committed to completing the following monitoring and evaluation documents which will be provided to you at your induction workshop
WFL is a non-accredited learning experience, though the funding does require some kind of impact measurement. So, in this section, the school can state that each learner will be tracked using an Independent Learning Plan and the RARPA criteria. For more on RARPA see below, and also: www.qiaresources4adultlearning.net/

8. State the aims of the school’s WFL course.
The aim of any targeted intervention should be to promote confidence in learning and reduce the barriers to learning for disadvantaged groups and communities.

9. Outline the WFL course being offered
Even without an adult teaching qualification, a WFL tutor can deliver a course that is up to 16 hours in length. The course can reflect the skills and interests of the tutor and how they relate to the school’s mission statement. So, for instance, a school that promotes creativity in learning could promote an arts and crafts course, while an urban school where there are limited play opportunities in the neighbourhood might encourage parents and carers to become more involved in providing play-based learning for their children.

Example: promoting a key stage 1 WFL programme based around a 12 hour course promoting creative writing and art:

Tyssen Community Primary School, Hackney, organised a programme based around a number of activities including colour/emotion poems; mixing colours; postcard art; making up a rap; doodle art/squiggle game; a visit to an art gallery; t shirt painting; a pop art hat; a mural; a collage; a soap carving; a group story with illustrations; body outlines.

The tutor, a HLTA, organised three activities per session: the first activity for parents only for 50 minutes, followed by a second activity for 35 minutes with parents working with their children. After a 20 minute break, this was followed by a final 20 minute activity for parents only, for example, setting a home-based activity to do with their child over the following week.

Example: promoting a Key Stage 3 ‘Keeping up with the Kids’ course based on an induction programme for Year 7 parents

At Sion-Manning RC Secondary School, a full service extended school in North Kensington, a fortnightly evening course was organised by the Assistant Head, for Year 7 parents. For each session, a different subject team presented the syllabus outline for Year 7, with an opportunity to take part in a sample lesson with additional advice on how to support their child’s progress in that curriculum area. The programme attracted a core group of a dozen parents who stayed with the course through their child’s first year in secondary school.

10. Is this course accredited? Are you interested in running an accredited course for parents?
Although WFL courses are rarely accredited, the school could offer to signpost participants to an accredited programme at the local FE College, or another third sector organisation, that delivers Skills for Life courses. Skills for Life programmes lead to level two qualifications over 90 hour courses.

11. How many learners do you expect to engage?
A minimum recommended number of participants is 8 children and 8 adults in order for the course to be considered value for money for the funding body.

12. What do you anticipate as your course costs?
Based on a 12 hour course, the costs could be:

Staffing: £480 (based on 12 hours @ £40 per hour (MPS point 6 x 1.5 overtime)

Resources: £198 (based on £1 per learner per hour @ 8 adults and 8 children x 12 hours

Creche: £216 (based on £9 x 2 staff x 12 hours)

Admin/marketing: £100 (based on £0.50 per learner per hour @ 8 adults and 8 children x 12 hours)

Total: £994 (£5.17 per learner hour, 12 hours x 8 adults and 8 pupils. £5 per learner hour cost is the norm for targeted or intervention work with children or adults)

Individual Learning Plans and RARPA

Each WFL participant needs to complete an ILP which is based on the RARPA principle – Recognising and Rewarding Progress and Achievement – a self assessment process that enables the participant to take control of their own learning.

The participant can consider the aims of the course by completing statements such as ‘By the end of this course I want to be able to… I would like to be better at… Three things I want to get out of this course/activity are…’

Initial assessment should take account of participants’ starting points in terms of previous knowledge and attitude, for example marking themselves before and after the course on two scales: ‘In terms of my confidence in this area I feel.. I rate my skills in this area as…’

In setting challenging learning objectives, the group could identify some aims for their time together in terms of what they should, could and would like to learn from the programme.

Formative assessment can be built into sessions, for example: ‘What I learned today… What I am better at… What I need to do to improve…’

Summative assessment could be based on tutor records of assessment activities and participants’ work in terms of a portfolio of learning which could include a personal journal, photos or examples of assignments.

Finally – ‘Petals and kettles’ – PTLLS and CTLLS

WFL is a distributed leadership opportunity for a HLTA, SEN teaching assistant, learning mentor, parent support officer or other member of the inclusion team, provided they have support from a member of the School Management Team. Adults other than teachers on the school team could discover a route into teaching via a five day course delivered through their local FE College – the Pre Certificate in Teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector (PTLLS) which qualifies tutors to teach up to 30 hour courses. A further one year programme (usually via a weekly twilight session) would provide an aspiring adult tutor with their full Certificate (CTLLS) which would enable them to teach 90 hour courses and deliver adult literacy and numeracy to level two.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in June 2010

About the author: Nick Holt is an education consultant. Previously he has been a teacher, local authority commissioning officer and most recently the extended services coordinator for an inner London borough.