Community learning pioneer earns OBE

17 June 2013

A businesswoman and community learning pioneer from Woodley near Stockport has earned an OBE for services to adult and community learning.

Anne Wallace OBE, Director, Starting Point Community Learning Partnership Limited, has used adult and community learning to not only improve the lives of hundreds of local people, but to also transform the precinct where she runs her businesses – a fish and chip shop and a cafe.

Startingpoint’s ‘School of Fish’ offers all aspects of training in the hospitality industry, and was first set up after Anne committed to provide training for staff at the fish and chip shop ‘Taylors’. When Taylors started struggling due to the recession, owner Anne Wallace knew that rejuvenating the local precinct was key. Anne remortgaged her house and turned an empty unit into a coffee shop, which soon became a community hub hungry for informal adult learning.

With local backing and volunteering by Taylors staff, Startingpoint began offering basic IT training, which was sustained further with funding from the European Social Fund and the NIACE-managed Transformation Fund. Startingpoint targeted over 500 learners with additional funding to operate as a UK online centre and by becoming a Community Capacity Builder and taking IT learning to local centres, including retirement homes and sheltered housing.

Startingpoint continues to build strong partnerships. It has set up a Quick Reads Reading Group and is part of Stockport College’s Life Changes scheme, offering adults a 12-week vocational learning programme leading to work and further education. Anne is also currently leading a NIACE-managed Community Learning Innovation Fund project.

Anne Wallace, said:

“Our precinct is thriving again and there is a waiting list for businesses wanting to invest and operate here. This is a great place to live and learn. It’s the Big Society working at its best.”

David Hughes, Chief Executive of NIACE, said:

“It’s great to see Anne getting the recognition that she thoroughly deserves. The way she has used adult learning to regenerate and reinvigorate the local community, and local businesses, is testament to her hard work, vision and determination. What’s happened in Woodley is a vivid example of what we often say – learning can help to completely transform communities and people’s lives. Congratulations Anne and the team at Starting Point for your remarkable achievements.”