From education to employment

Cardiff project wins Inspire! Award for supporting families to learn together

A ‘family-learning’ programme that aims to engage and foster positive attitudes towards education has won a major award.

The Families Learning Together Programme at Cardiff and Vale College delivers a wide range of courses for adults and parents in over 80 schools throughout Cardiff and the Vale.

The courses provide families with the tools and knowledge to help parents support their children to learn whilst developing their own lifelong skills. Each course is tailored to the needs of the family cohort and supports the development of Literacy, Numeracy, Welsh, Speaking and Listening, Science, Digital Skills and English as a Second Language.

In recognition of its incredible work with families across Cardiff and the Vale, Families Learning Together has been awarded the ‘Hywel Francis Award for Community Impact’ at this year’s Inspire! Awards.

Wayne Carter is the Head of Department for Widening Participation at Cardiff and Vale College and more recently became a manager for Families Learning Together. He said: “It has been a humbling experience to listen to learners sharing stories of the impact learning has had on them, their children and their families. 

“In our Families Learning Together sessions, many of the adult learners talk about the hope that they feel, the sense of belonging they have found and their excitement about their futures. It’s fantastic to be a part of something that champions adults being proud of their achievements while providing a positive future for their children.”

Each course runs for 10 weeks, with approximately three hours of learning each week, and classes are held in-person within school settings.  This enables the building of positive relationships with the school and provides a structured programme of joint learning between adult and child.

Wayne continued: “During the pandemic, the team adapted all programmes so they could be delivered online, and new provision was developed to help parents support their children’s education. This included creating new educational games and assisting adults to support Key Stage 3 secondary school students.

“The teams also provided Daily Story online sessions delivered at times that met the needs of adult learners, such as early morning and evening story time slots.  This creative solution proved very popular, and the intergenerational aspect was a lifeline to many parents and grandparents caring for children during the pandemic.”

Families Learning Together is one of 11 winners to be recognised at the 2023 Inspire! Awards. Coordinated by the Learning and Work Institute with support from the Welsh Government. The Inspire! Awards recognise those who have demonstrated a commitment to never stop learning. Each Inspire! winner demonstrates how learning can offer second chances, help create new career opportunities, build confidence, and help communities become vibrant and successful.

The Inspire! Awards will take place this year on September 14th and celebrate the achievements of exceptional individuals, community projects and organisations.

“The key success of the programme is the collaboration between tutors, the schools and more importantly the voice of the adult learners who share their stories. They are hugely successful and provide second chances for adults to develop their own skills but also demonstrate the value of education to their children,” Wayne continued.

“The provision offers second chances for adults to develop their own skills whilst supporting their children’s education. During the programme many learners talk of their missed opportunities when they were at school and the programme has provided a spark for their own journey back into further education, training or employment. Families tell us about the positive outcomes of the programme such as; improved mental health and well-being, building positive relationships with their children, other parents, their local school and community. It is great to see families realise that they can achieve amazing things.”

From the period September 2022 to December 2022, Families Learning Together has delivered 57 courses in 46 schools across Cardiff and the Vale, with 435 adult learners developing new skills, 890 children and adults engaged and a 100% positive learner satisfaction response.

Wayne continued: “What is unique with the programme is that the Families Learning Together team see first-hand the implications of the cost-of-living crisis and can support their learners practically and emotionally. The tutors distribute free period dignity care products discreetly in sessions and support them to access student discount apps for free food and heavily discounted products.

“They also continually discuss ideas and events that families can attend for free during term time as well as school holidays. The team deliver workshops in areas of high deprivation during the school holidays which are free and fun, that all families can attend with their children.”

There is now a waiting list from schools seeking future provision for Families Learning Together to support them in achieving key Curriculum for Wales objectives.

The team aim to continue promoting adult learning to families and are passionate about creating second chances for people in the most disadvantaged communities.

“The programme is not just about learning; it is a civic mission. An opportunity to provide second chances, to create a culture of learning and to bring communities in areas of the highest need together. It’s about providing opportunities to prosper to live in a more equal community,” said Wayne.

Cardiff and Vale College Principal Sharon James said:

“Congratulations to CAVC Families Learning Together for winning this Inspire! Award – it’s truly well deserved. Families Learning Together have worked with thousands of families over the last few years and have made such a difference to so many people.

“At CAVC we aim to be at the very heart of the communities we serve and the fantastic work of the Families Learning Together does embodies that commitment. Well done to the team! We’re all very proud of you.”

Claire Gurton and her son Mackenzie started attending Families Learning Together sessions a few years ago after Claire had to leave her job due to ongoing health conditions. She said: “I always thought I wouldn’t be able to do the same activities the other parents can do. Now I know I can, I’m much more confident and independent. I’ve made new friends and improved my own basic skills. I’m proud of what Mackenzie and I have been able to achieve.”

For other adults in Wales keen to start their learning journey, in-person taster courses and online sessions will run throughout September and during Adult Learners’ Week (18th – 24th September), with advice and information available locally to inspire people to take up learning as a way of increasing their employability.

Jeremy Miles, Minister for Education and Welsh Language, said:

“Congratulations to this year’s Inspire! Award winners and nominees. It’s incredible to see so many individuals of different ages, from varied backgrounds, and with a range of abilities overcoming personal challenges and becoming role models for us all. 

“The Inspire! Awards are a fantastic platform to showcase learners who have gone above and beyond to turn their lives around and succeed in their careers. Thanks to their hard work and dedication, this year’s winners have shown how learning can help pave the way to personal and professional success.

Joshua Miles, Director for Wales at Learning and Work Institute, said:

“The Inspire! Awards serve as a reminder of how important it is to never stop learning. We live in a world that’s changing rapidly. Between the impact of the pandemic, the cost-of-living crisis and emergence of new technologies, nothing stays still for long. Learning helps us adapt to this change and ultimately benefit from it.

“If we keep learning and improving our skills throughout our lives, we can continue to increase our job prospects and are more likely to secure a promotion or be able to change careers. We also know that learning is good for our self-esteem and mental health, making us feel more linked to our community.

“Our Inspire! Award winners are a testament to how learning throughout our lives can help us deal with life’s challenges. As we celebrate our winners, we hope that their stories can inspire more people across Wales to take part in courses throughout Adult Learners’ Week.”

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