Cultural Playing Field


Community Learning Trusts Workshop by Robin Simpson
March 14, 2013, 8:51 am
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On Tuesday afternoon I spoke at the Community Learning Trusts Workshop at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. The 15 pilot Community Learning Trusts have been in operation across England since August 2012. They have been tasked with: creating local infrastructure with real identity; testing new partnership and collaborative models; growing and diversifying provision, participation and providers; generating additional resources for Community Learning; developing approaches to community consultation; and developing approaches to widening the provider base. On Tuesday I was part of a panel session on exploring other funding streams. Joining me on the panel was Leesa Herbert from NCVO (who spoke about the excellent Funding Central website: www.fundingcentral.org.uk), as well as representatives of the Big Lottery Fund and the Campaign for Learning. I took the opportunity to promote our Running Your Group online subscription services – both for the Community Learning Trusts themselves and the self-organised learning groups they support.

Robin Simpson.



Community Learning Stakeholder Reference Group meeting by Robin Simpson
January 11, 2013, 10:59 am
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I was in London on Tuesday to attend a meeting of the Community Learning Stakeholder Reference Group at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. When the Government published ‘New Challenges New Chances: Further Education and Skills System Reform Plan: Building a World Class Skills System’ in December 2011 it made it clear that its funding for Community Learning in England will be focussed on the most disadvantaged people, that local communities would be involved in defining need in relation to Community Learning and that the effect of public investment in Community Learning must be maximised by attracting additional income from other sources. ‘New Challenges New Chances’ also proposed establishing new Community Learning Trusts. 15 pilot Community Learning Trusts have been in operation since August 2012. These Community Learning Trusts have been tasked with: creating local infrastructure with real identity; testing new partnership and collaborative models; growing and diversifying provision, participation and providers; generating additional resources for Community Learning; developing approaches to community consultation; and developing approaches to widening the provider base. The Community Learning Stakeholder Reference Group will meet throughout 2013 to assess the progress of the pilot Community Learning Trusts. At Tuesday’s meeting I was pleased to see the continuing emphasis on the importance of self-organised learning groups and the need to support such groups – including local voluntary arts organisations.

Robin Simpson.



Community Learning – Learner Survey by Robin Simpson
January 6, 2012, 4:43 pm
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On Friday I have been at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) in London to take part in a stakeholder workshop to introduce and discuss a new BIS-funded Informal Adult and Community Learning (IACL) Learner Survey, commissioned as part of the current IACL review. The IACL Learner Survey will be a telephone survey of 4,000 learners to explore their routes into learning, their motivations for learning and the impacts they experience as a result of learning. In particular it will aim to capture the impact of IACL learning in relation to the objectives set out in the Government’s New Challenges, New Chances publication.  BIS has commissioned the social research agency TNS-BMRB to carry out the research. In Friday’s workshop we looked in detail at the areas the telephone questionnaire will cover. We were also given details of separate BIS-commissioned research into Adult Learning and Wellbeing.

Robin Simpson.



Informal Adult and Community Learning stakeholder reference group meeting by Robin Simpson
December 15, 2011, 5:18 pm
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On Thursday I was at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) in London to take part in a meeting of the Informal Adult and Community Learning Stakeholder Reference Group. On 1 December the Government published ‘New Challenges, New Chances’ – a Further Education and Skills System Reform Plan. This plan includes a brief reference to community learning, promising that “BIS funding will continue to support a universal community learning offer, with a wide range of learning opportunities available to all adults in England”. Specifically it says “in the 2012/13 academic year we will pilot different locally-based ‘community learning trust’ models to channel Adult Safeguarded Learning funding and lead the planning of local provision in cities, towns and rural settings”. A prospectus for these ‘community learning trusts’ is due to be launched in Spring 2012 and our meeting was the first opportunity for the Department to hear the views of a variety of stakeholders about how this new system might best work. I suggested that the ‘community learning trusts’ will need to involve self-organised learning groups such as voluntary arts organisations to help to link together the various aspects of informal adult and community learning, rather than just concentrating on learning providers that receive direct Government funding.

Robin Simpson.



Culture, Community and Inspiration in Informal Adult Learning by Robin Simpson
May 20, 2011, 4:48 pm
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On Tuesday I was at the British Library in London to speak at the NIACE Adult Learner’s Week Policy Conference, ‘Culture, Community and Inspiration in Informal Adult Learning’. The conference saw the launch of ‘Tough times for adult learners’ – the NIACE Survey on Adult Participation in Learning 2011 – which concludes that there has been quite a dramatic drop in the last five year period in the numbers of over 19s taking part in LSC-funded learning. I spoke, as part of a panel session, about the vast numbers of people engaged in informal learning through voluntary arts groups. Mary Lowe and Helen Jones from Voluntary Arts England ran a ‘learning zone’ within the conference, focussing on VAE’s work on arts participation and health and wellbeing. It was an interesting and thought-provoking day.

Robin Simpson.



Informal Adult and Community Learning and the Big Society by Robin Simpson
March 11, 2011, 5:12 pm
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I was back in London on Friday for a Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) roundtable consultation about The Big Society as part of the programme to reform and refresh informal adult and community learning (IACL). This was the second of a series of roundtable events. We looked in detail at how BIS-funded IACL provision currently supports the development of the Big Society vision and what more BIS-funded IACL could do to help build a Big Society. We also talked about how self-organised groups, including the tens of thousands of voluntary arts groups, could support the Big Society. I was interested to hear that the new Cabinet Office definition of Big Society now includes 5 ‘themes’: 1. empowering communities, 2. encouraging and enabling people to play a more active part in society, 3. transferring power from central Government, 4. supporting co-operatives, mutuals, charities and social enterprises and 5. publishing Government data.

Robin Simpson.

 



Meeting Stuart Edwards at BIS by Robin Simpson
March 10, 2011, 8:23 am
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On Wednesday morning I was at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in London to meet Stuart Edwards. Stuart is Deputy Director of the Quality Improvement Division at BIS and is responsible for the Department’s informal adult and community learning reforms which will consider how the £210m Adult Safeguarded Learning budget can best deliver the vision set out in the Government’s Skills for Sustainable Growth white paper. They will also look more broadly at how to create the conditions that will promote and support the vision for informal adult an community learning set out in Skills for Sustainable Growth. Stuart and I talked about the important contribution of the voluntary arts sector to informal adult and community learning and discussed how the contribution voluntary arts groups might make to joining up informal adult learning within communities.

Robin Simpson.