Unlocking local talent through the Citizens’ Curriculum

25 November 2015

One of the most promising aspects of devolution is the potential to develop better adult learning opportunities that genuinely meet the needs of local residents, local communities and the local economy. This is a core priority of our latest Policy Solution: Local People: Local Growth, to empower local areas to better harness talent of the people and communities they serve. Through our longstanding involvement in community learning, we have developed a thorough appreciation of the benefits that localism brings – and this is at the heart of our Citizens’ Curriculum, where one of our key underpinning principles is that the learning is locally led.  

Most of our development work with Citizens’ Curriculum pilot providers to date has been focused on the other two underpinning principles – that learning should be co-created with learners, and that it should interlink language, literacy and numeracy skills with a range of digital, health, financial and civic capabilities. These have been fruitful areas to explore in shaping provision to look more like a Citizens’ Curriculum.

In contrast, most pilot providers have not needed too much support in developing their curriculum to meet the needs of local people and communities. Approaches to engaging with local communities, and working in productive partnerships are in the DNA of community learning.  And once this is matched by greater local determination over the commissioning and funding of adult learning, we could see real benefits to adult learning provision, particularly in meeting the needs of groups who are not currently well served by national funding arrangements.

Meeting the needs of migrants, refugees and the communities that host them is a good case in point. There is considerable variation in how migration affects different areas, be that in large cities, small towns or rural areas.  Yet a national approach to the funding of ESOL – recently subject to further reductions – has failed to meet demand in many areas, where providers report lengthy waiting lists. As our Chief Executive David Hughes has blogged, the importance of sufficient, high quality and accessible literacy, numeracy and ESOL provision is often better understood in the town hall than in Whitehall.  

And the same applies to other kinds of provision that can be offered through the Citizens’ Curriculum approach, including not just basic literacy, numeracy and digital skills, but also approaches to engaging adults in learning, such as family and intergenerational learning opportunities. Learners who participated in our pilot projects have testified to the appeal, and the benefits, of a locally-led curriculum offer, developed with their particular circumstances in mind. One of the participants in our pilot for homeless and vulnerably housed adults at St Mungo’s Broadway highlighted the impact of the approach in improving confidence to persist and progress in learning:

“I find that it’s given me the confidence I need to step forward into higher education if I want to, or take it into the workplace.”

The Citizens’ Curriculum fits well with the local commissioning of learning and skills as it provides a clear framework, which can be adapted to local needs and responds to the interests of local communities.  Find out more about our current pilots here, or let us know how the Citizens’ Curriculum could help all adult in your local area gain the skills they need to get on in life, in learning and at work.