Learning in communities has the power to change lives

27th January 2014

When people have the opportunity to learn in their own communities, it helps them make positive changes for themselves and their families and take control of their lives. This is the headline finding of a research report by NIACE reviewing the Community Learning Innovation Fund (CLIF) which was launched by the Skills Funding Agency in May 2012.

NIACE’s research shows that nine out of ten individuals who took part in learning as a result of the CLIF now intend to get a job, volunteer, and/or to continue learning.

The report also states how successful project delivery and clear evidence of impact can considerably raise the profile of organisations. This in turn can enable them to secure additional funding and other support to sustain work in the future.

The CLIF, which was managed by NIACE for the Skills Funding Agency, consisted of almost 100 projects (predominantly partnerships led by the third sector), which engaged over 15,000 learners in around 1,500 learning programmes.

The projects engaged adults from a range of diverse backgrounds. These included residents of deprived localities and adults who were marginalised, excluded or struggling in life due to their personal circumstances. The learning as part of the CLIF projects has helped people with poor mental or physical health, disability, vulnerable housing, a history of offending or being offended against, substance or alcohol misuse, or those in poverty or who are isolated.

The participants included a higher proportion of men (37%), disabled learners (31%) and members of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) groups (27%) than is often the case in traditional community learning provision.

Half (50%) of the learners were not in paid work and around a third (34%) were not taking part in any education or training at the start of their CLIF project. Nearly half of the participants (46%) left school at 16 or below and a further one in five (19%) left at 17 or 18. One in three (33%) of the CLIF learners have had no involvement in learning since leaving full-time education.

However, following their participation, many learners have found the confidence to continue learning and think positively about their lives. The future intentions of the learners are:

  • Paid work (including self-employment) – 29%
  • Volunteering – 29%
  • Community Learning (CLIF organisation) – 46%
  • Community Learning (other organisation) – 23%
  • English and maths courses (accredited) – 11%
  • English and maths courses (non-accredited) – 12%

Skills and Enterprise Minister, Matthew Hancock, said:

“This report is clear evidence that Community Learning can transform the prospects of people who are disadvantaged and furthest away from the jobs market.

“Community Learning can improve social mobility, by helping people to get online, involving them in decisions about local learning and giving them the opportunity to make the most of their lives.”

Carol Taylor, Director for Development and Research at NIACE, said:

“It has been a pleasure to manage the Community Learning Innovation Fund on behalf of the Skills Funding Agency. Working with these projects has enabled us to find out more about the power of taking learning to where people are – especially for those who are the least engaged in learning. Our research with the CLIF projects clearly illustrates how effective it is to enable people to learn what and where they want, and introduce them to how exciting learning can be, far removed from their memories of school. These kinds of opportunities bring about transformational change for people who would not otherwise get the chance to move forward with their lives.

“We are really encouraged by those individuals who are now determined to move on to further learning, volunteering and work. By encouraging, engaging and inspiring some of the most marginalised people in society, this fund has helped transform their destinies and those of their families, their friends and the communities they live in.”