Graduate Research Abstracts

Hughes, Loretta. 1999. Clare VEC.
A Study of the sustained benefits for the participants of the Learning is Fun Programme at the Clare Family Learning Centre, Co. Clare.
BA Hons Thesis National University of Ireland Galway.

Parents were interviewed after the ‘Learning is fun’ course, the majority referred to a perceptible change in their child’s personality. Many parents remarked about their child’s gain in confidence in collaborating with others in a group and confidence in playing with other children. Some parents felt it prepared their children for entering school. They said their child ‘settled in quicker to school.’ One parent said her child was ‘more interested in making things themselves’ and another referred to improvements in their child’s reading ‘picked up things…letter, and recognises spellings.’

Parents were asked about their view of their own literacy: the majority felt the course ‘reminded them of things they might have forgotten’ or that ‘it helped them brush up on their skills’. Other benefits mentioned they felt they could ‘cope with their children better now.’ Others said they enjoyed the social aspect of the course and had made good friends.  Parents gained confidence, one parent said ‘confidence to go on and do other things.’ One parent mentioned that because the Irish school systems have changed she felt it would benefit both older and younger mums.

Benefits for the parents have resulted in:

  • Greater levels of self-confidence
  • An enhanced relationship with their children
  • Better strategies for coping with stressful situation within the home
  • Parents feeling more at ease with their children
  •  A greater willingness to engage in learning and fun activities with their children
  • A greater willingness to try out Irish in the home. (p.12-19)

Flanagan, Mary. 2004. Clare VEC.
The Design Implementation and Evaluation of a Family Literacy Course for Parents of Primary School Children in County Clare.
Ed. University of Limerick.

This research examined the impact of a six week family literacy programme for parents of primary school children. Questionnaires were completed pre and post on literacy and numeracy activities happening in and around the home by parent and child. Semi structured parent interviews were conducted on completion of the course. The comparison of pre and post questionnaires showed increases in literacy activities. In the interviews, parents stated that the course had met their needs and

This course was viewed by the parents as a manageable first step back into learning, offering a ‘safe’ place to explore differences in teaching and learning since their own school days. The majority of parents had children starting in Junior Infants and were highly motivated to help their child learn. Interestingly the majority of parents did not view themselves as adult learners while attending this course. ‘Excellent, it gave me an insight and made me look at things from a different perspective, and to learn from the experiences of other parents.’ Others ‘learned about the Irish education system’, ‘I found the maths very useful’. ‘the information on the primary school curriculum was very useful. It was like a wake-up call for me on things that I thought I was doing right. It also made me feel good about things I was already doing.’

Rose, Anthea. 2007.
How can we Characterise Family Literacy Programmes in England, Ireland and Malta: A Comparative Case Study.
Ph.D. Nottingham University.

Family  literacy  programmes  have  become  an  increasingly popular pedagogical tool utilised by policy makers to help address the literacy needs of families with low skill competencies and who are viewed as economically and socially underachieving. Taking a comparative case study approach, in this research  I consider what benefits family literacy programmes have for the literacy skills of families. Drawing on Bourdieu’s habitus (1993) and Field (1977) and Bourdieu, Coleman (1988)and Putnam’s (2000) notions of social capital, in this research I compare family literacy programmes in selected case study areas within England, Ireland and Malta. The objectives are to establish differences and similarities in policy rationale, the characteristics of delivery and learner engagement. Predominantly qualitative in nature, the research consisted of 94 semi-structured interviews with actors involved in family literacy programmes across the three areas including coordinators, practitioners, learners, ex-learners, non-participating fathers and children’s teachers. Interviews were supplemented and triangulated by a range of other data sources including a number of classroom observations. Family literacy programmes across the three areas exhibited many similarities: the content of sessions; the underlying policy rationale for offering and funding programmes; the motivation of learners for attending; benefits reported by learners; and difficulties faced by practitioners. In addition, parents attending were mainly mothers. Some differences were also found, mainly between Ireland and the other two participating areas. For example, in Ireland different types of locations were used and children were not usually present. However, the main difference was not cultural, but political, between the desired policy outcomes, and the motivation of learners. The evidence suggests that, regardless of the cultural context, there is a mismatch or at least a lack of awareness between the two, with learners predominantly motivated to attend to help their children, whilst policy objectives primarily seek to address inadequate literacy levels, as part of wider social inclusion strategies.

Webb, Janet. 2007. Clare VEC
An Assessment of the Impact of Family Learning Programmes on Parent’s Learning through their Involvement in their Children’s Learning.
Waterford Institute of Technology.

The study investigated the learning of 22 parents attending family learning programmes in Clare. Findings show family learning impacted on parents’ involvement in their children’s learning by the whole process of focusing on interactions, demonstrating that ordinary ‘day to day’ activities could prompt communication. Family learning through focusing on parents’ involvement in children’s learning impacted on the parents learning in three ways:

  • Increase in knowledge and understanding of how children learn and develop both cognitively, socially and emotionally. Greater awareness of what an important model parents provide for their children and that by making time and doing things together creates strong bonds and an increase in seeing children’s interactions in a wider context. Parents were able to reflect on their own upbringing and what they desired for their children.
  • Acknowledgement of the link between the understanding of their children’s learning and the impact of this on their own learning and the realisation that activities at home impacted on how children achieve in school. This awareness of the link between home and school increased feelings of responsibility and confidence in linking with school to support their child’s learning. This lead to increased aspirations for both adult and child.
  • Improved parents own mental health in that they had a purpose for getting out of the house and by mixing with others in similar situations, they made friends and learned more about themselves as people. Consequently, greater value was put on individuals and the community and there was a widening view of the world, people and learning. By developing an understanding of how people learn, they became more interested in the world around them and developed aspirations and a desire to progress into new areas such as further learning or employment.

Marlene Schliepach 2011
Family Literacy in Ireland: Clare Family Learning Project
BA Degree (Hons) Thesis   Free University of Berlin, Germany

As an Erasmus student Marlene examined the notion of Family Literacy in Ireland and reviewed work in Clare Family Learning Project. A group of parents who had attended a family learning class were interviewed and a number of findings were established.

There were benefits for parents under soft outcomes such as enjoyment, confidence, social interaction and motivation to learn. Benefits for children as children’s achievements were noticed as a result of the course, different children benefit according to their needs. Family benefits including positive impacts of parental involvement in child’s education, increased parent-child interaction in the home and better parent child relationships. The most valued benefit from the family learning course mentioned was improving parents’ ability to support their children’s education. All parents started the family learning course for the benefit of their children. This study shows that parents’ and educationalists’ aims overlap in this respect. Parents stress their own improved skills as valuable for their children’s benefit. Family learning programmes are a successful hook to bring parents back to education. McGivney (2002) mentions ‘Softer outcomes of learning such as increased confidence appear to be key to achieving the harder outcomes desired by government and funders. All the evidence indicates that they enable and facilitate educational and economic progression, especially among new and more hesitant (adult literacy) learners.’

McGivney, Veronica (2002): A Question of Value. Achievement an Progression in Adult Learning. NIACE, Leicester, p. 23


Family Literacy in Europe.
Carpentieri, J., Fairfax-Cholmeley, K., Litster, J., Vorhaus, J. (2011) Family literacy in Europe: using parental support initiatives to enhance early literacy development.
© 2011 NRDC, Institute Of Education, London.

‘Clare Family Learning Project holds a key position in Ireland for the development of family literacy and numeracy provision (p62)….’

‘The programme is clearly successful in reaching parents not already engaged in learning and where the children need extra support (p223).’


Child Literacy and Social Inclusion: Implementation Issues, Report 39 (2009).
National Economic and Social Forum.

Clare Family Learning Project was used as a case study in this EU Commission report The National Economic and Social Forum (2009), Child Literacy and Social Inclusion. The report focused on the implementation of the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) programme. The report cites  ‘ One striking example of good practice in family literacy work is that of the Clare Family Learning Project… (p136).’

Clare Family Learning Project was invited to contribute to an international online encyclopaedia publication:

Flanagan, M., Sheahan, C. (2011). ‘Family Learning’ in Online version Encyclopaedia of the Sciences of Learning. Entry 0681. p432. Springer.