Putting communities first

Mike Hedges explains how Communities First has offered a vital lifeline to people in Wales.

There are lots of anecdotes about those who left school at 16 with few or no qualifications and went on to be captains of industry or successful entrepreneurs. There is also no shortage of stories about people with degrees who are unemployed or serving customers in the fast food industry.  The reality, however, is that those with higher level qualifications earn, on average, substantially more than those who are unqualified and unskilled. That is why education is one of the three main areas of Communities First, because academic success will help improve the life chances of those living in the community.

In Swansea East, each of the four clusters has prioritised improving educational attainment both by helping adults back into learning and by supporting young people with their education.

In the North West cluster the Community Learning project which is aimed at people over 16 has had 331 participants throughout the year.  The project was particularly successful in the following areas:

  • Helping local people to improve their digital and online skills,
  • Engaging local people in non-traditional training (such as gardening including grass cutting),
  • Helping local people who may volunteer with local groups to gain accredited qualifications – such as first aid or food hygiene certificates.

In the East cluster the Adult provision has included a Welsh for family course; IT courses, a community development course and basic skills (English and Maths) courses. Child care placements have been provided for members of the community in order for them to be able to attend the training courses. Some members of the community have been supported and encouraged to go to the local college whilst others have done accredited courses where they have learnt skills relevant to entering into employment

In the South Cluster a series of courses such as taster sessions, learning activities and more advanced courses leading to qualifications have been held to help boost the skills and confidence of adults in the area. Examples of courses run include First Aid, Food safety, child protection, Health and safety, textiles and ECDL. One of the learners has been nominated for NIACE adult learner of the year award.

Whilst in the North East Cluster free introductory IT courses, Ipad courses, new online courses and drop in sessions are run in order to help adults learn and improve their IT skills, help is also provided on CV writing and on line job searching. Other free courses available include everyday First aid, retail skills, photography, parenting and basic skills.

The area where there is the greatest scope for improving life chances is with family learning and supporting children in their education.

The North West cluster team delivers a Family Learning Project that involves working with local schools in the area to establish relationships with parents, who then take part in their Family Learning Signature sessions.  The Family Learning Signature Session focuses on the value of education in the home and participants have found it an extremely useful experience. It is well known that children from families that do not value education perform less well at school.

In addition the Family Learning project has also operated, in partnership with local schools, homework club sessions targeted at children and parents who do not have ICT and Internet facilities at home.  Work has also been done with local schools using the Welsh Rugby Union All-stars programme and this has proved to be a great way to get parents to engage and interact with their children.

The East cluster has used the Bonymaen family centre to run a parent and toddler group aimed at increasing the development and learning of pre-school, children. It also supports parents with any parenting issues they may have by offering support, advice and guidance.

There has also been a scheme supporting young people to do well at school with open access play schemes run during the holidays for children between the ages of 5 and 14.  A homework club is also available providing support to children with their homework, with Maths being especially popular. There is also a scheme that encourages a learning environment in the family and home.

Communities First has been a key partner in the FAST (Families and schools together) project in Hafod Primary school. FAST is an award winning early intervention programme that brings the wider community, teachers and parents together to make sure that children get the support they need to fulfil their potential. It helps children improve their reading, writing and maths skills as well as encouraging a positive attitude to school and learning. It also helps parents become more involved in their child’s education.

Communities First is doing an excellent job in both helping reskill older people, but more importantly, promoting and supporting the education of the children in the area. These schemes along with flying start should mean that no children are left behind educationally and whilst this will not be a quick fix it does give hope for the future.

Mike Hedges is the Assembly Member for Swansea East.

3 thoughts on “Putting communities first

  1. It’s good to read that Flying Start and Parent and Toddler Groups are still being supported. Perhaps Communities First funds are better spent on families, babies, and early years, plus elderly support, as priorities.

    Some funds might be reasonably spent on better transport too. If business rates and rents could also be significantly reduced, some communities might be able to become more self supporting, and be able to retain their younger people, and poorer but experienced people, so that communities became stronger.

    Community centres could happily receive funds to provide a home for youth clubs, and walking groups, and community police services might be welcome too. Even some community churches might benefit from a grant for repairs or updating, or just to maintain an open house in the life of communities.

    The I.T. facilities in libraries are a wonderful success, and have probably contributed to an increase in library members and visitors. This is to be commended. Where libraries have closed, reasonably nearby ones should be considered for enlargement and development, to accommodate people who have lost theirs.

    I would have thought that younger people would attend colleges for adult education and training, and so am not sure that it’s necessary for communities to provide food hygiene accreditation? Perhaps fast food outlets could contribute to the funding of these courses.

  2. Well Mike,

    We would have the Welsh language as a family course and how dreadful it would have been for Swansea people if they did not have this opportunity! – Just curious if you have read The state of the Nation report (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-24567287) or this morning’s item again on BBC Wales pages titled “Poor Welsh Children” (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-24567287)?

    Welsh education is imploding and the main casualty are English speaking kids who are underperforming and disadvantaged by the Welsh language compulsion (This statement is100% FACT based from the FOI data via the Welsh Government’s sources) and these children including their future appear not to matter to the Welsh state and the Welsh Labour Party whose ethos on social justice, humanities and so on has been hijacked by the party leaders who put the Welsh language agenda above all else and in my view have destroyed the party that I support (Ed Miliband’s party not Carwyn Jones’s version of it)!

    Also, I happen to share Alice’s and Gillian’s concerns as ‘our’ party has been instrumental of depriving non – Welsh language sectors of cash and resources to function properly or even to exist (Libraries, Leisure facilities and so on)!!??

    Over the last 15 years I have not heard a singe AM (Including Labour Party AM’s) who dared to speak, ask or even ‘God Forbid’ object to in the Welsh Government’s imposed Bilingual Nation concept by COMPULSION – Democracy?

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