National programme gets over 100,000 adults learning

29 March 2011

In less than 18 months 2,000 registered Community Learning Champions have encouraged over 100,000 people – of whom over two-thirds (70 per cent) were unemployed – to take up learning in some of the country’s most disadvantaged communities.

These are the headline figures, published in a report on Tuesday 29 March, to mark the end of the Community Learning Champions Support Programme – funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and delivered by NIACE, unionlearn, the Workers’ Educational Association and Martin Yarnit Associates.

Since its launch in October 2009 the Community Learning Champions Support Programme has funded 50 projects across the country to give volunteers the necessary skills and support to promote learning in their homes, workplaces and communities. Community Learning Champions have been instrumental in helping to transform individual lives and whole communities.

Although the national Support Programme has come to an end, the current Government has recognised its key role in making the Big Society real and will examine the future role of Community Learning Champions in the forthcoming Informal Adult and Community Learning review. Today’s report makes the following four recommendations to Government:

  1. Government, at local and national level, should recognise the vital contribution of Community Learning Champions, particularly in encouraging and enabling people to take part in informal adult community provision.
  2. The national Support Programme – consisting of the continued support and maintenance of the brand and register, the website, the networking and national events, with a degree of national coordination to provide strategic direction – should be supported and maintained from April 2011.
  3. Informal Adult and Community Learning budget-holders – whether colleges, local authorities or voluntary sector bodies – need to plan to mainstream Community Learning Champions where appropriate as part of the future shape of local learning services, as brokers, Information and Guidance advisers, learning mentors, organisers of provision and trainee tutors.
  4. Informal Adult and Community Learning budget-holders should seek to develop adequate support for Community Learning Champions including continuing professional development programmes that enable progression for Community Learning Champions to employment within the sector, such as learning support, teaching assistance, initial teacher training, and IAG.

John Hayes, Minister for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning, said:

“This Government is a huge supporter of informal adult and community learning. We are passionate about its contribution to civil society, personal development and support for families. The achievements of projects like the Community Learning Champions are proof that our ambition of building a Big Society can be realised.”

Mark Ravenhall, NIACE Director of Operations, said:

“This scheme really embraces the ethos of the Big Society. It’s about people in local communities helping each other to succeed through the transformative effect of learning. This would not have happened without a national support programme registering 2,000 champions who helped another 100,000 people. It shows what can happen when a relatively small amount of money is targeted to help people help themselves through adult education.”

Liz Cousins, Project Manager of the Community Learning Champions Support Programme, said:

“This shows what can be done when enthusiastic volunteers, given the support and training, can do in reaching into the most disadvantaged communities. And how they can help others to enjoy the benefits of learning. Although we have seen some dramatic changes in the lives of individuals – getting jobs, building confidence and becoming more active in their communities – it will be over the next few years that the real impact on their lives, the lives of the new learners and their families and communities will be seen.”