Local learning decisions work well for local communities

10th July 2013

Adult learning’s vital contribution to personal, social, business and economic benefits in local communities across the country have been celebrated at a special event in the presence of NIACE’s Royal Patron HRH The Princess Royal.

Delegates from Government and the adult learning sector had the chance to hear from Community Learning Innovation Fund (CLIF) projects and learners about their experiences and the positive impact learning has had on them.

HRH The Princess Royal, said:

“Finding ways of reaching those furthest off the skills track is a skill in itself. It requires a huge amount of local knowledge to be able to give people the confidence to come forward and make more of their own skills. This is exactly where the strength of CLIF lies. It is centrally funded but very much community oriented, an interesting mix not always easy to achieve, but we need events like this really to spread the word.

“Hearing from the learners here today it was clear that the underlying most common added value from CLIF projects is confidence – a deeply difficult thing to measure, but you know it when it’s there. Confidence isn’t something you can have all the time, but mechanisms to get you back to that point are perhaps more crucial. Knowing where to go back to start again is vital and the fact that CLIF is community orientated, giving people the chance to go back much closer to home, is the strength of this type of approach.”

Among the CLIF projects attending yesterday’s event were:

Money Matters – led by Stockton and District Advice and Information Service – helps people with learning disabilities to improve their skills and confidence in money matters and gain greater choice and independence with their personal finances. The project has trained 160 people and a further 23 volunteers have helped to produce training materials and a DVD.

Open Minded: Worcester Recovery College Project works in partnership with an NHS Trust and a number of third sector organisations. It has developed a new way to help mental health service users and their family carers embark upon a recovery journey, through a shift away from therapy and towards education, through the development of a better understanding of what mental health ‘recovery’ is.

Volt Project, led by Centre 63, works with 40 young adults with complex needs – often involved in crime, disorder and substance misuse – and encourages them to volunteer to increase their self-esteem and improve their employability through creative learning sessions.

Getting on Board – led by the Avenues Trust Group in Kent – supports people with learning difficulties to learn about national and local decision-making and to become more active in their local communities. Learners have visited 10 Downing Street and the Houses of Parliament where they had the chance to pose questions to MPs and peers. 20 local councillors and 16 MPs have contributed to the course.

Heritage: Our Future provides learning opportunities for older and isolated people living in rural communities across Cumbria. It engages people with their local heritage, stimulates a self-study network and has developed a team of Heritage Champions to support self-study groups and re-energise learning opportunities lost in isolated and remote areas.

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

“Learning in your local community, with people you know, is a highly effective way of engaging people in learning, especially those who think learning is not for them. The projects which have been funded through the Community Learning Innovation Fund, some of which we, and HRH the Princess Royal heard from yesterday, have shown the huge difference that can be made to the lives of learners, their families and the communities they live in. Adults, families and whole communities are gaining new skills and knowledge, making them more confident and helping them to consider ambitions that they previously thought beyond them. They are experiencing positive changes in wider areas of their lives with improved health and family relationships, as well as through use of technology and understanding their finances. They are getting the bug for learning!

“The day was fascinating, hearing from so many excited and engaged people, people who are now committed to learning more and to sharing that learning. We will have even stronger evidence later this year on the impact the CLIF projects have had with the publication of the final report. This fund has been invaluable in giving local providers, in consultation with local people, the opportunity to put on learning activities that they know will have the strongest impact on local communities, an impact that will hopefully be felt for many years to come.”