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Limerick & Clare ETB recently held a two-day international conference looking at how stakeholders can support families and make a difference to parents’ lives. The Family Learning Conference, organised by the Further Education and Training Division of Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board took place in the Temple Gate Hotel on Thursday 28th and Friday 29th March 2019.

Mary Flanagan, Adult Literacy Organiser with the LCETB, Andrew Brownlee - Executive Director Strategy and Knowledge at SOLAS , Inez Bailey - CEO at National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA), George O' Callaghan, Chief Executive LCETB, Triona Lynch - Further Education and Training Manager LCETB and Siobhan Mc Entee - Active Inclusion Manager ETBI pictured at the Internation Conference On Family Learning focusing on putting parents in the picture. Pic. Brian Arthur


While welcoming delegates and opening the conference, George O’Callaghan, Chief Executive, Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board, said: “We are delighted to host this international event and to welcome our friends from both at home and abroad. The purpose with family learning is to create a positive enjoyable experience for all of those involved, so that they may use that as the first step towards a desire to learn more and also to instil in them the confidence to be able to help and support their child in their learning. Family learning is about making a journey and plotting a route from the informal to hopefully the more formal aspects of education and, from there, progressing perhaps to higher forms of education or the world of employment.” George also paid tribute to those involved in delivering core skills literacy provision in County Clare and the significant impact these programmes have made over the past 25 years.

George O'Callaghan - Chief Executive LCETB
Pic. Brian Arthur


Delegates from seven countries were in attendance at the conference, with speakers from across Ireland, Germany, England, Sweden and Luxembourg. Recommendations from the conference proceedings will be collated and forwarded to various stakeholders including the Department of Education and Skills, SOLAS - the national further education and training authority, the National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA), Education and Training Boards Ireland (ETBI) and other agencies.


The conference also featured a preview of the forthcoming Guidelines for Family Literacy Practice in Education and Training Boards. These guidelines will be a concrete step in progressing Family Learning across Ireland as a national part of Further Education and Training. The preview was delivered by Andrew Brownlee, Executive Director of Strategy and Knowledge, SOLAS. He said: “Family literacy is a hugely important area that we in the Further Education and Training sector are focused on. I would like to congratulate Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board for this excellent conference programme. SOLAS recently engaged NALA to undertake background research on family literacy in ETBs, which will inform upcoming guidelines for good practice. This is part of a wider strategic approach by SOLAS and our partners across Further Education and Training to supporting good practice in active inclusion, with other guidelines developed or in development around areas like initial assessment of literacy and numeracy, universal design for learning, approaches to ESOL and numeracy provision.”


Family learning is an intervention that invites parents/grandparents/carers to attend group classes on how to support, encourage and inspire their children as they learn. Research shows that having parents interested in their children’s learning helps their children to achieve. Parents attend classes and programmes to help their children and, in doing so, also learn for themselves. This two-for-one approach strengthens and maximises learning within the home. Very often these classes are also parents’ first step back into education since they left school. As parents become familiar with the learning centre and staff they feel more confident in returning to education and committing to further classes.


Mary Flanagan is Adult Literacy Organiser with Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board and one of the key organisers of this international conference. She said: “Research shows that parents who are interested in their child’s learning make a positive impact on the achievement of the child at school. Parents don’t have to know everything, we are all learning every day. We must never forget how much parents already teach their children in a very natural way. We build on this in family learning work and show how the home is such a valuable learning place.”


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