Learning that entices, engages and inspires

At one level this is a simple story – we are delighted to be managing a new fund on behalf of the Skills Funding Agency which will support fantastic learning for thousands of people in all sorts of settings and with diverse outcomes. And yet the real story is much more than that – this is an opportunity to showcase how all forms of learning can have incredible impacts. The projects which are supported will be part of a concerted effort we are making to find ways of measuring and proving the impact of learning of all kinds; trying to reach that Holy Grail of having Treasury accept measures of social return on investment alongside and in the same regard as economic returns on investment.

Nobody who works in adult education can overlook the many different ways in which learning has a positive impact. We have all seen people blossom, gaining self-esteem and confidence, developing new understanding and skills, being able to support their children and grandchildren to learn, inspiring others to get involved, getting a new or better job and so on. We have stories from Adult Learners’ Week which really do bring tears to your eyes in awe and respect at the ways in which people have overcome all sorts of challenges and achieved so much through learning. The impact for individuals and communities is clear and it really does not matter what entices people into learning in the first place. Two people who won Adult Learners’ Week awards help show this.

Take Amanda Scales, for instance whose story shows that the initial subject and motivation for learning is irrelevant to the outcomes and positive impacts. She started in learning as a single parent by joining a belly-dancing class and is now about to start her teacher training after graduating with a BA in history from Sussex University. Hers is an inspirational story and she is going to make a great teacher. I have no doubt she will inspire hundreds of children to discover the joys and benefits of learning through her new career.

The new funding will result in more learning which entices and excites, engages and inspires because that is the type of learning which can help people become lifelong learners and go on to achieve so much.”

Another of our award winners is Anne Wallace who took over the running of her family’s fish and chip shop in Woodley Precinct near Stockport. The precinct was suffering because a number of shops and businesses had shut down. Anne tried to sell the shop but had no buyers. In an attempt to find a solution she asked her staff for suggestions of what to do and they all wanted training. The training went so well they started winning awards. Every time they won an award they were featured in the paper and the publicity meant more customers. Anne decided that to help boost trade further she would take on two of the empty units and convert them into a café. With money from the NIACE Transformation Fund the café put on all sorts of training and learning opportunities for the local community – IT, card making, knitting etc. Anne has now converted the upstairs of the fish and chip shop into the ‘School of Fish’ where they run training for local businesses. They also now run a book group. Business is booming in the precinct and there is now a waiting list for retail units. The community has been reborn and creative, exciting, enticing learning has been a central part of the story.

The new CLIF fund will support lots more people like Amanda and Anne. Both of these women are exceptional but the journeys they took are less incredible – the new funding will result in more learning which entices and excites, engages and inspires because that is the type of learning which can help people become lifelong learners and go on to achieve so much.

David Hughes is the Chief Executive of NIACE

Grants of up to £65k are available from the Community Learning Innovation Fund, applications need to be made by noon Thurs 28 June or for grants of less than £50k the deadline is noon Thursday 5th July. For full details please visit: http://www.niace.org.uk/clif

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