From education to employment

We must unite and strengthen family learning if we are to improve outcomes across the UK

Having only opened to members earlier this month, the National Centre for Family Learning already has more than 180 professionals and practitioners signed up who work with over 48,000 families each year. Philip Le Feuvre, Chief Strategy Officer at the educational charity NCFE, explains why the sector plays such an important role in influencing learners of all ages.

No matter your age, family is often pivotal to shaping your decisions and ambitions. Whether that’s young people talking about their next steps in education or adults looking to move careers.

Research shows that 68% of young people aged 13-16 speak to family members about their future plans, compared to just 31% who are happy to talk to teachers. More than double (22%) of the same age group feel the information, advice, and guidance they receive from family to be ‘very useful’ compared to just 10% who felt the same about teachers.

This isn’t a criticism of teachers, far from it. In fact, it points to the fact that we often place too many responsibilities on teachers to solve issues that other groups might be better placed to address. A massive 90% of young people aged 18-19 discuss future plans with friends and relatives, compared to 53% who do the same with their teachers and 32% with trained careers advisors.

That’s just a snapshot, but it does put into perspective the need for a strong family learning sector that encourages collaboration and the sharing of information and best practice. This is exactly what the National Centre for Family Learning will do, not just for careers advice, but all areas of learning for families, from essential skills and financial literacy to health and wellbeing.

What does the National Centre for Family Learning do?

Created by the social inclusion and lifelong learning initiative Campaign for Learning, the Centre will deliver high quality resources, best practice articles, case studies and events for family learning professionals and practitioners, as well as opportunities to build relationships. Importantly, it will also act as the authoritative voice for family learning at policy level and in championing the sector – something that has been sorely missed.

As a former primary school teacher, I saw first-hand how children’s awareness of the jobs and careers available to them was shaped by their family environment. That’s why we can and should be doing so much more to improve the flow of information to families and their wider networks, no matter what learning context they’re in.

There are an estimated 100,000 people inspiring families to learn together across the UK and we need to support these individuals and organisations that are making a real difference to the lives of people in their communities, from local authorities, schools, children’s centres and early years providers to voluntary organisations, offender settings, museums, galleries, libraries and more.

Two major barriers for family learning practitioners

When speaking to family learning practitioners themselves, it is clear there are two major barriers they face in their role. The first is the structural issues found in each family, which can include difficulties such as the cost of living, challenges associated with coming from an underprivileged background, and a lack of a culture of learning.

Developing this culture of learning within families is incredibly important and valuable at all ages and stages of a career. Now, more than ever, workers are switching careers, with the average school leaver changing up to 12 times in a lifetime. If we are to address certain skills gaps, families are a brilliant place to start.

The second barrier is simply having the resources available to deliver the learning that was actively wanted or needed by those families. With the sector having been underfunded and, sometimes, misunderstood, it’s no surprise to hear that practitioners are having to do their best with very little. Indeed, total spending on adult education and adult apprenticeships will still be 25% lower in 2024-25 compared to 2010-11, according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies.

Whether it’s adults, children or the wider family, there are three main benefits that emerge as a result of family learning: enhanced skills, improved health and wellbeing, and increased confidence and resilience – all things that influence every single area of society and our economy.

A connected and vibrant family learning sector benefits everyone

A connected and vibrant family learning sector benefits everyone. Whether that’s from a funding or policy perspective, or just simply by enabling fellow practitioners and professionals to exchange ideas, learn, and be inspired by one another.

We’ve seen more recently the growing calls for stronger family learning provision and focus, such as from the Centre for Social Justice, the Fair Education Alliance, Sam Freedman at the Institute for Government, and Campaign for Learning themselves.

That’s why I’m incredibly proud that NCFE is supporting this historic movement and I would encourage others to get involved and do the same.

By Philip Le Feuvre is Chief  Strategy  Officer at NCFE

Philip Le Feuvre is Chief  Strategy  Officer at NCFE and responsible for group wide strategy and the organisation’s transformation. He has experience working across all levels of the education, employment, and skills systems, in the UK and internationally.

Membership of the National Centre for Family Learning is free and open now. For more information visit

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