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Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe



Inter-generational impact of adult learning on families in the UK

by Ruth Spellman
Language: EN

Adult learning is often associated with employment and economic effects but the impact goes much wider than this. For tens of thousands of people across the UK, community and adult learning makes a positive contribution to their lives including employability, health and wellbeing and family life.


The impact of parental achievement

The Workers’ Educational Association (WEA)’s Grow Together – Learn Together campaign celebrates the positive inter-generational impact of adult learning on families.



"87% of parents reported an increase in self-confidence." Grow Together - Learn Together #WEAParenting

We know that there is a clear link between parental achievement and child achievement but the link is not necessarily made clear and is often forgotten. However, parental achievement, rather than individual talent, remains a big determinant of young people’s opportunities in life.


Parental involvement in children’s learning has also shown to have a positive effect on children’s learning, academic achievement and future success.



Boosting skills and confidence

Research from the annual Varkey Foundation Global Parents' Survey revealed that a quarter of British parents do not help with their children’s homework for fear of embarrassment. In contrast to this, the impact we are seeing in all our students is that not only does their confidence increase after attending any adult learning course but for those that are parents their relationship with their children improves.

Our latest research shows that adult learning is transforming the lives of families:

  • 87% of parents taking part in courses increasing in self-confidence
  • 50% said their relationship with their children improved
  • 58% improved their confidence in helping their children with reading, writing or maths homework
  • 31% noticed improvements in their children’s educational achievement


Statistics from WEA's Grow Together - Learn Together campaign, #WEAParenting


Adult learning provides a pathway back into learning that is convenient, welcoming and unintimidating and supports parents to feel more confident. It empowers parents to teach their children the joy of discovery from learning new things at all stages of life.  By supporting parents, their children in turn become more supported.




Potential for a shift in focus 

The current education system in the UK is skewed towards younger people, with the majority of funding and resources directed towards pre-18 compulsory education, with immediate post-18 education the next most prominently supported. Learners beyond the age of 24 are much less well supported.

So what happens to those that fall through the gap and how does this impact on the next generation?

Currently five million adults in the UK lack basic reading, writing and numeracy skills required for everyday life and this is having a huge impact on their families. 

If we really want children and adults to achieve their potential we must encourage adults into education and tackle the barriers they face head on.  We need to make sure adults have clear pathways back into education and issues of access and progression are addressed to help future generations.  


WEA’s approach to adult education provision

The WEA’s education provision is developed across four key themes:

  • Culture
  • Health and Wellbeing
  • Community Engagement
  • Employability

These represent some of the most fundamental needs of people living in Britain’s diverse communities.  Each theme provides a context within which the WEA offers its wide and varied curriculum.

The WEA offers a variety of adult education courses in key subjects like: basic maths, English and IT skills for employment; courses to improve health and wellbeing; creative programmes to broaden horizons and community engagement activities.


We know that we offer unrivalled adult provision across England and Scotland and we want to build and sustain best practice in teaching, learning and assessment alongside our unique ethos. New tutors have a teaching session observed during their probationary period; all tutors have teaching sessions observed on a regular basis to contribute to the WEA Observation of Teaching, Learning and Assessment quality assurance process. 

The WEA has developed a tutor development strategy which allows tutors to access to a wide range of CPD opportunities both face to face and via videoconferencing, online modules, communities of practice, peer review and reflection and one to one mentoring.

We have a range of training and support for both new and existing tutors available via our intranet. Some training is offered face to face but increasingly we will be using webinars, online training content and video conference facilities to develop communities of practice across the organisation.

Our commitment to tutor development supports our aim to becoming an outstanding provider. We aim to deliver outstanding learning experiences for all our students and provide tutors with training and support to help them deliver excellent classes.


Visit the WEA website for more information.



A photo of Ruth Spellman


Ruth Spellman is the Chief Executive and General Secretary of the WEA. In her fourth CEO position and with 40 years of management experience, Ruth is promoting education for social change, democracy, tackling disadvantage and strengthening communities.




WEA - Adult Learning Within Reach


The Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) is the UK’s largest voluntary sector provider of adult education in England and Scotland. Founded in 1903, the WEA is a charity dedicated to bringing high-quality, professional education into the heart of communities with the support of nearly 3,000 volunteers, 2,000 tutors and over 10,000 members. The WEA delivers friendly, accessible and enjoyable courses for adults from all walks of life.



You may also be interested in reading: 

Collecting impact evidence in Family Learning (blog)

Family Learning - A model of success (blog)

DurhamLearn creates opportunities for rural communities (blog)

MedLIT project: I don’t like the news (blog)


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