A Citizens’ Curriculum – helping people get the basic skills they need30 April 2015
Anyone who is involved in adult learning and skills knows how common it is for individuals with vocational skills-needs to also present with multiple learning needs. This, in themselves endangers their ability to participate in learning as families, in their communities and to find and keep jobs.
We also know that successive Governments say they want to encourage as many people as possible to be in work. In fact the current Government introduced Universal Credit in the belief that it will facilitate the transition from unemployment into work. The opportunity to participate in learning at this transitional point is vital in helping many people secure and sustained full-time jobs. However, the types of learning needed are not just vocational skills, which is why I believe that the Citizens’ Curriculum approach that we are advocating in Ten Policies for Ten People will be key in providing a framework of learning that people can choose from to acquire the diverse range of skills to engage with and participate in learning as families, in their communities, in the workplace and ultimately lead to sustainable careers.
NIACE is not alone in supporting this. In Learning Through Life, Schuller and Watson suggested ways in which the capabilities outlined in NIACE’s Citizens’ Curriculum overlap, for example, poverty and problems with debt can ‘paralyse people, almost literally, so that learning how to manage your finances is part of learning how to improve your health and well-being’. They also argued that the four capabilities – digital, health, financial and civic – ‘underpin employability, directly or indirectly’, for example, ‘participation in civic activity helps reinforce people’s sense of identity and well-being, which helps them maintain their links to the labour market’.
Our own recent national pilot studies with the Citizens’ Curriculum approach clearly demonstrate the positive impact it is having across a number of key policy areas. We now have robust evidence to show that using this approach can have wide ranging benefits – from directly increasing participation in learning, showing skills improvement through learner achievements and progression to qualifications to real employment outcomes, health improvements and improved home learning indicators from families with young children.
The pilot studies themselves see the value of this and are beginning to undertake their own benchmarking activities to show the true economic benefits of organising and offering a Citizens’ Curriculum approach to their learners. So it makes absolute sense that we have a funding mechanism that supports this, which is why we are asking in Ten Policies for Ten People that providers should be able to offer funded programmes of learning such as the Citizens’ Curriculum as a way of motivating learners and engaging them into learning.