Rejection for family learning plan proposal

The Department for Education (DfE) has rejected calls by the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (Niace) for a huge expansion in family learning to be paid for with Pupil Premium cash.

A Niace report spelling out the benefits for disadvantaged children, parents and carers of rolling out extra family learning schemes across the country was unveiled last month at PricewaterhouseCoopers, in London.

In a speech where he also expressed disappointment that no representatives from DfE attended the event, Niace chief executive David Hughes said he would like to see the expansion funded with 2.3 per cent of the Pupil Premium budget.

However, the DfE appears to have ruled that out. A spokesperson told FE Week: “We are taking decisive action to support disadvantaged pupils and close the unacceptable attainment gap between them and their peers.

“The Pupil Premium, which is increasing to £2.5bn a year, is extra funding to support those children who need the most help, from when they join school to when they finish GCSEs. It is completely separate to the range of measures the government has in place to support adult and family learning.”

Niace responded by pointing out Education Secretary Michael Gove expressed support for family learning in parliament six months ago.

During a House of Commons debate on literacy and numeracy, Caroline Dinenage, Tory MP for for Gosport, Stubbington, Lee on the Solent and Hill, asked him what what measures were being taken to support family learning programmes.

Mr Gove said: “If parents are given the opportunity to play a part in their child’s education and if they are given additional confidence in their own grasp of literacy and numeracy, the whole family can benefit from it.

“It is a commitment of myself and the MP for West Suffolk [Matthew Hancock], who has responsibility for skills and adult learning, to make sure that family learning programmes can be supported as effectively as possible.”

Mr Hughes said he still hoped to be able to convince the government to accept Niace’s proposals through a discussion on family learning he is set to hold with Skills Minister Matthew Hancock in a few weeks’ time.

He said: “We know that at the highest levels at the DfE there is support for family learning, exemplified by what the Secretary of State said back in April.

“We also know from working with local authorities, such as Sheffield City Council, the positive impact family learning has had on both children’s and their parents’ and carers’ attainment.

“We are very much looking forward to meeting the skills minister soon, where we will be discussing our proposals in more detail.”

The DfE spokesperson added that it had not sent anyone to the Niace family learning launch event because, “representatives from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills — the department responsible for adult learning — attended the event on behalf of government.”