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Lifelong Learning Underpins a Strong and Stable Society image

Lifelong Learning Underpins a Strong and Stable Society

A strong and stable society is not built on skills alone - creativity and lifelong learning lead to a balanced and innovative 'national' community, which not only has the skills to ensure economic success and growth, but also the emotional intelligence to make sure we support individuals throughout their lives, to build a society that people trust and believe in.

The rhetoric of skills, skills, skills is all very well, but we need to understand the reality, and how a large number of adults have been left out in the cold, with adult learning providers left to take the lead in trying to re-engage and support this marginalised group. This is not an easy task, it's not sexy, and it does not always get immediate results but it does work, and is a vital component in supporting the longer term needs of economic growth. If we only train and support those that will succeed first time, we will not be able to fill the gaps left as the high flyers fly.

In a strong and stable society we need to support all our citizens, and recognise that for many of them we have failed - putting them through an everchanging education system, that focuses increasingly on a narrowing curriculum and changing definitions of success. Often the first step to re-engagement is improving confidence, and Community Learning is a safe and proven vehicle for this.

Skills are not just about qualifications. The skill to communicate, to work as a team, to have belief in your own potential and in others, are also skills that a strong and stable society should value, and a 'one-size fits all' approach to training will not deliver to the diverse agenda that is required to meet the needs of society.

In Somerset, SS&L work with employers to deliver the skills they need for growth, and to provide Apprenticeship training for young people and adults, but we also work closely with a range of partners and third sector organisations to support those members of society who are further away from the world of formal education and employment. The Somerset Community Learning Partnership was established in 2013, with the aim of providing an innovative approach to re-engaging individuals in learning and skills. SS&L believe that through learning we can build stronger communities, with more self-sufficient, connected and pro-active citizens. We also believe that this strategy requires a partnership approach, and we therefore invite a range of community organisations to work with us to achieve our goal through our Community Learning Partnership (CLP) programme.

Our CLP programme works with, and provides funding to, over 30 partners each year to engage individuals in learning through a range of projects. Some of these include:

  • Outdoor family learning - working in partnership with Magdalen Farm to give the families and carers of children with special needs the opportunity to take part in a range of activities on the farm - learning about farming, baking, nature and crafts. The project enables carers and families to find innovative ways of engaging with their children, and improve the confidence levels of participants to take part in more structured learning.
  • Working in partnership with Inspired to Achieve - to provide mentoring, advice and guidance to individuals who have been away from education and work for a long period. The project also offers training in digital skills, and money management.
  • A project in partnership with Langley House Trust - to work with ex-offenders to build and establish positive foundations to allow them to become contributors to society. Team building, communication and social skills are developed through a range of outdoor activities.
  • Live Naturally - a project that delivers targeted healthy eating courses, and confidence building to adults and families in targeted wards in Somerset. The project empowers individuals to make simple positive changes to improve their physical and mental health.

Many of these projects are a 'slow burn'. No big headlines in terms of standard definitions of 'success' but huge 'personal headlines' and progress for the individuals that take part, which directly impacts on their confidence, self-belief and ambition. It is through the participation of people who hover outside formal education and employment, who engage in lifelong learning projects and achieve personal success, which underpins and supports the development of stronger communities, and a stronger healthier Britain.

For further information about the Somerset Community Learning Partnership, or to apply for project funding for 2017/18 through SS&L, please contact