Recent research, commissioned by Visit Birmingham, found that half of parents said they make little effort to educate their children about culture or history and rely on schools to do so. The research also found that 40% of children aged 5-12 had never been to an art gallery, a quarter of parents had never taken their children to the theatre and 17% of children had never visited a museum.
The reasons parents gave included not being able to afford to visit attractions and not having the time. However, a fifth claimed their children wouldn’t be interested and that they relied on schools to teach them what they needed to know.
While we might question whether the research focuses on quite a narrow definition of culture, the fact that so many parents feel they have little role in educating and broadening the interests of both themselves and their children is a cause for concern.
Sometimes, there are practical issues. If an adult has trouble reading or with numbers, they might not be able to understand a bus timetable or to find the cheapest way to get themselves and their children into town and to venues. Couple this with a fear of not being welcome in arts venues and with overcoming their own and their children’s reluctance to try something new, the barriers can seem insurmountable.
There’s a message here for all involved – schools and cultural venues as well as parents. To create a culture of learning about history, art and so on in the family, you need to engage the whole family. NIACE’s work with museums and galleries has shown that a family learning approach to activities involving children and parents reaps dividends.
The family learning approach promotes the family as a learning environment and empowers parents to be involved in their children’s learning, through increasing their confidence in their own knowledge and abilities, as well as developing their skills. Museums and galleries are doing a lot to make their venues more family-friendly and they are developing family learning approaches to engage whole families.
While Visit Birmingham’s laudable aim is to encourage parents to sight-see with their children, we need to recognise that the first step might be to engage the parents in their own and their children’s learning.