Community learning programme thrives despite Covid-19

A COUNTY council-led adult community learning service is thriving despite lockdown restrictions thanks to prompt adaptation by teachers and participants.

Whilst predominantly a classroom-based and face-to-to face service pre-Covid-19, the Staffordshire Community Learning Service quickly had to adapt to continue courses remotely due to the new restrictions. This meant learners and teaching staff having to learn new skills overnight.

Since April around 100 new online courses have been set up with 600 new learners signing up.

Courses cover a broad range of subjects which are delivered by colleges, independent educational providers and tutors. They include arts, IT skills, foreign languages, parenting skills and more.

Engagement in family learning has increased since the crisis began. Existing learners have been able to continue their courses and at the same time gain essential digital skills.

Anyone aged 19 or over who lives in Staffordshire can sign up to courses.

In addition to moving the service online, many courses have become more accessible to people countywide.

With sessions previously taking place in libraries, schools and community centres, some were only available at certain locations. Now they’re accessible to everyone regardless of where they live, giving people more options and connecting them to other course participants further afield.

Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet member for learning and employability Philip White said: "Like most parts of our society, learning and education has had to transform and adapt rapidly in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis. Although there are many educational challenges created by the crisis, there are also success stories and our adult community learning service is demonstration of this.

Almost overnight both learning providers and course participants have had to develop digital skills to continue. For some this will have been the first time and undoubtedly a daunting prospect, but one they have embraced.”

While it is likely courses will be online only for the rest of the year, it is hoped these can be combined with classroom sessions in 2021. Feedback from learners and learning providers through this period will help to shape future programmes.

Amanda Darlington, Staffordshire County Council’s community learning manager, added:

"We’ve had feedback from course participants to say in as little as a week they’ve grown in confidence in using digital resources. This is good for them and our county in the long-term and beyond Covid-19.

"Despite this crisis, people’s keenness to learn has continued and around 600 people have signed up to courses since April.

"We understand the need for face-to-face learning, especially for people’s health and wellbeing, and we hope to return to a blend of learning when the time is right.

While the service has been pushed more rapidly towards digital learning, we believe this will ultimately strengthen it and provide more choice for learners.”

People can sign up for courses and find out more at www.staffordshirecommunitylearning.org.uk

Alternatively they can email: communitylearning@staffordshire.gov.uk

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