On the Ground: Continyou

Blythe Terrell

Scheme: Community Learning Champions

Objectives: Prepares local residents to become advocates for learning in their communities

Funding: Greenwich Council has supplied the project with printed materials.

The Belmarsh Prison strand and the school strand have received help from the Adult and Community Learning Fund.

The Community Learning Champions programme was developed in south east London by Continyou, in conjunction with Greenwich Education Services, to promote learning and explain the opportunities available to people in the area of Greenwich. The charity now wants to make the volunteer scheme available nationally to groups that want to offer a similar programme in their own communities.

Continyou spokeswoman Sally Fairclough says the programme targets learners "who are disengaged from learning and who face multiple disadvantages in their daily lives".

The Community Learning Champions come from a range of backgrounds. Some have faced their own disadvantages, including unemployment. Others, according to Fairclough, come from professional or semi-professional jobs and "feel they could benefit from a tailored package of training and support to help them to engage more effectively with new, and perhaps reluctant, learners".

Local voluntary organisations and other groups in the borough, such as the Greenwich Community College, support the programme. Each learner is entitled to take a free course at the college. The Learning Champions also receive free support opportunities throughout the area, including access to the Careers Service and the City Learning Centre.

The charity also promotes learning in local schools and at Belmarsh Prison.

At the prison, longer-term prisoners are encouraged to help inmates on shorter sentences to learn. When the men are released, Continyou offers them further support from learning champions working in their area.

Continyou has created training materials for volunteers to use in the programme. These items help participants understand how people learn and the obstacles they face. The materials have been accredited by the Open College Network.

Continyou's overall aims include working to promote schools, education and lifelong learning. The organisation also seeks to tackle health inequalities and work with families.

Through the Adult and Community Learning Fund, Continyou has recently received money to appoint a project worker. This staff member will support the champions and work on strategies to support future champions and learners in the programme.

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