Adult learning plays its part in community renewal
Ofsted finds Neighbourhood Learning in Deprived Communities (NLDC) projects are bringing communities together and boosting educational, training and job opportunities for those most in need.
The survey, The role of adult learning in community renewal: Neighbourhood Learning in Deprived Communities programmes, finds that two-thirds of adult learning providers surveyed have established strong links with local partner organisations to ensure Neighbourhood Learning in Deprived Communities funding is meeting a diverse range of needs.
Published today by the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted), the survey shows that on the whole, providers are highly effective at engaging specific, targeted groups such as people with disabilities, lone parents, minority ethnic groups and young offenders.
Three quarters of providers surveyed said learners gained qualifications and then moved on to other forms of learning. Most were able to develop good communication and presentation skills, and often became more involved in local projects and events, such as community fun days and collective campaigns on local issues.
Christine Gilbert, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, said:
“Neighbourhood Learning in Deprived Communities funded projects can be instrumental in engaging hard to reach learners. It’s encouraging to see that most providers are using the funding well, and establishing strong partnerships with local organisations to contribute positively to community regeneration, and better prepare residents with skills for employment.”
Following revised funding guidelines introduced in 2007, three-quarters of providers in the survey had set targets for increasing the focus of funding on skills for jobs; however the definition of such skills varied widely across providers.
“It’s critically important that we keep sight of the bigger picture. Whilst employability skills have a very positive impact on community regeneration and renewal, it’s important that providers don’t narrow their focus too much. They must ensure projects are sustainable, and have the capacity to develop and grow. This may mean looking for further funding on a long term basis,” added Ms Gilbert.
While three quarters of projects in the survey experienced success in the short term, only one in ten became permanently established. Those that managed to achieve this were mostly able to do so through a strong ‘champion’ or an enthusiastic activist to drive the cause.
Regular evaluation of the impact of Neighbourhood Learning in Deprived Communities funding on projects is necessary for long term sustainability. Whilst most providers used some form of self-assessment, a review on how funding is meeting the needs of the neighbourhood as a whole, as well as individuals is essential.
To improve the quality of provision further, the Department for Children, Schools and Families, the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills and the Learning and Skills Council should systematically monitor the targeting of provision to ensure that funding is reaching beneficiaries from the most deprived communities in England. They should also review NLDC funding to include a longer term, structured and integrated view of neighbourhood renewal that supports the development of sustainable community projects.
All providers should systematically monitor the targeting of provision across local communities to ensure fair and equitable distribution of funds and that strategies to target communities are fully implemented. They should also place a stronger emphasis on sustainability and outcomes when planning NLDC funded initiatives to support self-management.
Notes for Editors
- HMIs visited 21 adult and community learning (ACL) services and 30 subcontracted voluntary and community providers between September and December 2007, to survey Neighbourhood Learning in Deprived Communities (NLDC) funded learning.
- The NLDC fund was launched by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) in 2002 to support the development and delivery of learning opportunities for people living in disadvantaged neighbourhoods and to build the capacity of voluntary and community organisation to undertake this work. It forms part of the Government’s National Strategy for Neighbourhood Renewal.
- The Learning and Skills Council (LSC) provides around £10 million annually to support NLDC capital projects and £20 million annually on NLDC learning initiatives.
- The LSC revised the aims and purpose of the NLDC initiatives in the funding round for 2007-08. The new guidance issued to organisations showed a strong focus on employability (75 per cent) as a main outcome of the funding.
- The Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) has the responsibility for the regulation and inspection of children's social care, the inspection of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service, childminders, full and sessional day-care providers, out of school care, crèches, adoption and fostering agencies, residential schools, family centres and homes for children, all state maintained schools, some independent schools, pupil referral units, the overall level of services for children in local authority areas (known as Joint Area Reviews), further education Initial Teacher Training, and publicly funded adult skills and employment based training.
- The Ofsted Press Office can be contacted on 08456 4040404 between 8am – 6pm Monday – Friday. During evenings and weekends we can be reached on 07919 057359.