Bristol Adult Community Learning (ACL) changes lives – and in particular young people and adults with the lowest qualifications living in communities hardest hit by Covid 19. Since March the Community Learning offer has been super responsive and the team has produced an impressive online response to lockdown. Bespoke family learning materials aimed at parents/carers with children in Key stage 1 and 2 have been accessed over 4,500 times. Functional Skills online content has also been made widely and freely available – since late March ‘Bristolskills’ Youtube videos have been viewed an amazing 65,000 times, serving over 2,000 hours of content to learners of all ages.
This is a whole team endeavour involving business support staff, tutors and development workers who have been phoning and supporting learners facing the greatest risks and challenges, keeping them engaged, whilst also recruiting new learners too. Without question this hard graft has helped to reduce isolation, improve mental health and wellbeing, support parents/carers with home education and offer a lifeline to those affected by job insecurity and unemployment.
So what does this look like in practice on the ground? Sometimes the ACL offer is harder to grasp than the services delivered by more formal institutions like schools and FE colleges. Huge thanks to colleagues that have provided some insight case studies that really do bring this learning offer to life:
Early in the year, Kyleigh was a very active learner on one of our Functional Skills English courses. After lock down, she struggled to keep up with the work as she only had her phone to access remote learning materials through google classroom. Her phone was also being used by her 2 children to access school work. Of the 8 learners in the class, she was one of 6 who only had a phone to access online services and learning content. The team arranged for digital tablets to be delivered to learners’ homes and supported them to get online. Learners have successfully completed the course online and have been put forward for teacher assessments in July 2020. Kyleigh commented that it was having the tablet rather than her phone that helped her complete the course and have the confidence to get through to final assessment and certification.
At the time of lockdown two entry level English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) courses targeting refugees and asylum seekers had just started, including: ESOL for Living in Bristol and ESOL for Employment. The prediction from the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme organiser was that the teaching would have to cease because the learners would not be able to participate online. However with the commitment of the tutors and the support of the bilingual Learning Support Assistant our team supported 80% of the learners to access learning online. The learners benefitted in numerous ways: learning digital skills; continuing their learning; reducing their social isolation; increasing their confidence.
A Family Cookery course has enabled learners to save money as all were finding they were spending so much more during lockdown and also wasting a lot of food. To ensure our offer was fully inclusive the development worker bought the ingredients and equipment and delivered them to pick up points local to learners. As a result learners who could not afford the ingredients or could not get out to the shops could still participate in the course. One learner fed back: I loved the online social interaction, especially during lockdown. It was something new and different to do, which I think helped with my mental health during lockdown, as well as give me new recipes to try. I also tried some new foods which I really enjoyed. The recipes were simple but really tasty.
Based on successful Roof over My Head courses for Bristol housing tenants (now delivered successfully online) we have been working with housing and welfare support teams in the City Council and the third sector on a project for Rough Sleepers who were temporarily rehoused in hotel accommodation. In collaboration with Employment Support and other support services, the Community Learning team are now ready to start delivering courses that will enable learners to achieve more sustainable accommodation, improve their skills and wellbeing, whilst also seeking employment and making other positive lifestyle changes.
I’d like to convey massive thanks to everyone that has played their part in identifying and meeting the needs of our learners who play such a critical role in maintaining positive family and community morale, including continued commitment to learning and skills development, even with all the barriers involved.
If you’d like to take a look at some of the superb community learning online learning resources, you can find them at these links here:
Family learning materials:
Functional skills materials: