Community Led Learning
Community Learning in Oxfordshire supports the development of peoples’ skills, health, financial security and career prospects by offering learning opportunities to those who feel they need it most.
Oxfordshire Adult Learning aims to widen participation and transform lives by supporting progression relevant to personal circumstances. OAL plans to maximise the impact of community learning to develop stronger communities, with more connected and pro-active citizens, and improve the social and economic wellbeing of individuals, families and communities.
In considering how community-based learning can be sustained, the proposal is to set up volunteer-led, independent learning hubs that widens participation in learning and supports progression. Local residents can transform their own communities via a learning project that impacts on their sense of wellbeing, connectedness and sense of purpose.
Watch the videos below to get an insight into the learning hubs:
Community-Based Learning Hubs Shortlisted for an award
The Association of Colleges (AoC) Beacon Awards and the TES (formerly known as the Times Educational Supplement) FE Award ceremony was held on Friday, 22 March 2019 at The Grosvenor Hotel, London.
Oxfordshire Adult Learning’s Community Learning Hub project was one of three finalists in the Skills and Education Group Award for Social Mobility and Widening Participation 2018/2019 AoC Beacon Awards. Whilst OAL didn’t win the award – it went to Birkenhead Sixth Form College for their project working with white working class boys to raise their aspirations and attainment – OAL received recognition as a finalist. The other finalist was Bridgwater and Taunton College who provide a therapeutic garden project for people with mental health issues.
Working in Partnership
By developing effective partnerships with residents, local services, agencies and learning providers we can maximise resources, meet priorities and contribute to positive community relations. Our partners include: Homelessness charities, voluntary organisations, mental health agencies, local authority community teams, housing associations, Citizens Advice Bureau, public health.
The Oxfordshire Learning Network (OLN), Oxfordshire’s Community Learning Trust, facilitates community learning reaching those most in need of support and once members of the local community are engaged in learning, the foundations for a learning hub are laid.
Discover some of the partnership organisations we work with here.
The approach may differ but the first step toward a Community Based Learning Hub will involve offering workshops or short courses in the local area. To date, the Knowing Me course has been the first step toward identifying local residents interested in setting up a learning hub for their community and surrounding area.
The Knowing Me course provides learners with an opportunity to reflect on how they have come to view themselves and why they may have low self-esteem. It offers another way to view themselves and their capabilities. The course handouts provide a useful toolkit that the learner can refer to time and again to help them to realise their own unique qualities and attributes.
‘I feel I have gained a more productive mindset, my anxiety has lowered as I have gained valuable tools to deal with different social situations. Looking at my past experiences has made me realise I can alter the way I process these emotions to enable me to move forward without fear of change.’
(Learner who completed the Knowing Me course, January 2019)
The content includes reference to Mindfulness, CBT, Emotional Literacy, Assertiveness and tips on how to challenge negative thinking. The pack also includes a set of inspirational quotes to continue to remind them why they matter.
Community Learning Champions
The Community Learning Champions course provides the learner with essential skills relevant to work in the community. Topics include the role of a Community champion – identifying personal skills and qualities; the values and principles of community development; identifying who may face barriers to community involvement and ways to overcome them; effective communication skills, including assertiveness, body language and active listening skills; managing our emotions and conflict resolution skills; mentoring skills; understanding and challenging discrimination and developing an effective team.
On completion of the course the volunteers can begin to work on the launch of their learning hub. The skills acquired throughout this process support the volunteer’s future aspirations and offers an opportunity to demonstrate a number of key transferable skills.
Setting up the Community Led Learning Hub
The Community Learning Champion volunteers will identify a name, logo and strapline for their community learning hub. They will also identify a local community project that is willing to support them and offer an address for the hub to be based from.
Each volunteer will complete a short interview and sign a volunteer agreement to confirm they are willing to contribute a few hours a week to the community project. They will also have a PDP which will be regularly reviewed to ensure the experience of volunteering in the community is also supporting their longer-term goals and aspirations. The volunteers will peer mentor each other and once they have secured the funding necessary, they will also complete an enhanced DBS. In the early days this is not an essential requirement as no one will be working one-to-one with a vulnerable adult.
Once the volunteers have selected their name, logo and strapline they will actively seek support from local organisations and agencies who have a stake in learning provision in the local community. They will be invited to sit on the management committee in an advisory, supportive capacity as ownership and voting rights remain with the Community Learning Champions who will be elected as Officers at the Inaugural meeting of the hub when the constitution is adopted.
All the paperwork and policies the hub will need is provided along with the constitution as part of this overall package. The volunteers will need these to enable them to open a bank account and apply for small grants to cover essential running costs.
The role of the Community Learning Champion is to encourage other residents to get involved; to find out what learning needs there are in the community and to act as a broker between the community and learning providers. OAL can respond to the identified learning needs of a specific community and offer further learning opportunities that meet these needs. Equally other learning providers may be able to offer relevant learning opportunities.
The learning hub is sustainable because it will be run by volunteers and as some volunteers may progress on to other things new volunteers can be recruited and the hub can become embedded in the local community. It has the potential to bring people together in a community, reducing isolation and improving community engagement and wellbeing.