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Non-Formal Learning

Volume 504: debated on Friday 29 January 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (1) what recent assessment his Department has made of the merits of non-formal learning; and if he will make a statement; (301869)

(2) whether he plans to establish a system of formal accreditation for the non-formal learning undertaken by children outside school.

The Department believes that every young person should experience non-formal learning as an essential part of learning and personal development, whatever their age, ability or circumstances. In 2008, through the Learning Outside the Classroom (LOtC) manifesto, the Department funded ‘Every Experience Matters’—an evidence-based review on the role of learning outside the classroom for children's whole development from birth to 18 years.

The report demonstrates the important role that LOtC could have in raising young people's engagement by drawing on research from around the globe and providing evidence that children achieve higher academically, have greater levels of physical fitness, increased confidence and self-esteem, show leadership qualities, and have greater engagement and motivation in learning. The report is available at

Where a child is educated at home on a full time basis the level of formality will vary according to the wishes of the parent and the needs of the child. Some parents will adopt a more child led approach to learning while others will prefer a more formal approach or something that takes in elements of a range of different approaches. In each case the education provided must be suitable to the age, ability, aptitude and any special educational needs that the child may have. It will not always be possible to distinguish between formal learning and non-formal learning in this context.

There are no plans to establish a formal system to accredit non-formal learning undertaken by children outside of school.