Last Updated: Thursday, June 27, 2019

Big Chef Little Chef - Ailsa Family Learning Centre

What is this?

​​Big Chef Little Chef is a bespoke family learning cookery programme delivered by the Community Learning Development Home-link Worker (Motherwell Locality) to families who reside in SIMD 1 and 2.​

Who is this for?

​The Big Chef Little Chef family learning programme is most relevant for practitioners within early learning and childcare settings and teachers in primary schools.​​​

​How to use this exemplar to improve practice?

The programme has a simple formula and can be adapted for any key learning based on needs. For example, a child who is struggling with maths can be encouraged to learn different types of early mathematical language such as full, half, numbers, weighing, counting and measuring when they use the ingredients.

This supports the learning that the parent/carer can transfer into the home. The early literacy opportunities are vast, such as following recipes, listening, following instructions, speaking and the introduction of new vocabulary.

The emphasis is on having fun one-to-one time with a parent or caregiver. Parents take the prepared meal home to cook, eat and enjoy as a family which makes for a unique learning experience. This also helps to develop children’s confidence and self-esteem. The recipes are simple and healthy, and also cost effective to recreate at home.

​Improvement questions

  • What evidence do we have that family learning is improving the life chances of the family involved?
  • Are outcomes for children improving as a result of their participation in family learning?
  • To what extent can we demonstrate that families are feeling included and are participating, achieving and progressing?


Explore this exemplar

What was done?​

The programme was developed with the Head of Centre through funding provided by NHS Health Improvement Team.

​Big Chef Little Chef has many learning outcomes, including promotion of healthy cooking and eating and developing family learning strategies within the home environment. All families within the centre are offered an opportunity to take part and there is always a high uptake of families participating.

Parents/carers and children have the opportunity to cook together which develops a positive interaction and strengthens the relationship between them. At the centre of the programme is the parent supporting their child’s learning.

The programme enhances and builds upon existing skills, including children’s independence and social skills development, early science experiences, communication and early literacy and numeracy. Activity interconnects with all areas of Curriculum for Excellence.

The programme also removes many barriers to learning, such as cost, location and availability, as families are accessing their child’s nursery or school on a daily basis.

This is a safe and familiar environment. The programme strengthens the partnership between parents/carers and the school/early learning and childcare setting. It is also a vital link to help develop and increase the opportunities for learning at home.​


This initiative was initially identified through consultation with Ailsa Family Learning Centre. Building resilience and gaining new skills/knowledge also helped parents feel better prepared and able to address their children’s dietary issues.

Delivery of the programme also enabled families to access other ​community learning and development and voluntary sector opportunities within the wider Motherwell area.

What was the impact?

Parental engagement is recognised in the National Improvement Framework as a key driver in raising attainment.

A high number of families reported back that they now prepare these meals at home with their child on a regular basis. Children review the programme by using smiley or sad face icons. There are always lots of smiley faces!

Parents reported an increase in their confidence and self-esteem levels by taking part in the family learning activities. Parents also said they felt more resilient and better able to cope with their children's on-going dietary needs and to take part in their learning within the Family Learning Centre.

The programme strengthened partnership working between Council staff and provided the opportunity for parents to access additional community learning and development programmes.

Parents/carers were amazed at how well the children could independently and safely use kitchen tools and knives to chop the fruit and vegetables.

Celebrating the family's success and achievements is recognised in a presentation of certificates when the programme finishes.

Inspectors stated that:

“Family learning and parenting activities such as Big Chef Little Chef programme reduce isolation, increase parents' confidence as educators and improve relationships".​
(Motherwell West Inspection of Community Learning and Development report, August 2017).​