Students Staff

06 October 2009

University wins funding to kickstart The Learning Revolution

The University of Essex is celebrating after securing ninety nine thousand pounds from the Government as part of a ‘learning for pleasure’ innovation spearheaded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).

One of over 213 winning projects, the University will be running a scheme to help set up, manage and grow social enterprises using its VentureNavigator business support platform ( combined with specially designed teaching and one-to-one mentoring.

By bringing together specialists in various fields including Doug Richard’s School for Startups, home working portal Enterprise Nation and mentoring experts Real Coaching Company, the University will deliver effective non vocational training which is fun, relevant, and timely which will aid community development.

Dr Janice Pittis, Project Director at the University of Essex said: 'Social Enterprise has much to offer the community, not just through what social enterprises can achieve but through the rich networks developed and cultivated in their operation and creation. They can bind communities closer together and offer a highly effective way of involving disadvantaged or marginalised individuals so they can play a greater role in society to the benefit of themselves, groups and society as a whole.'

Across the nation, a diverse array of informal adult learning projects will be getting underway, ranging from creative music master classes for people out of work or education, learning adventures for isolated older people and reading opportunities for the over 60s.

This grant is from the £20 million Transformation Fund, launched by Government to offer funding for to innovative informal adult learning projects in England. This brings to life The Learning Revolution, a White Paper presented to Parliament in March 2009.

The projects, many spearheaded by partnerships between public, private and third sector organisations, will help improve mental health, physical well-being, active citizenship and community cohesion, as well as providing a stepping stone towards further learning, qualifications and employment for many people.

Projects include:
• An initiative to engage more than 2,000 adults who are not currently in training, employment or education, through celebrity-led creative music and media tasters, master classes and workshops, led by a partnership which includes Global Radio, the parent group of Heart FM, LBC and Galaxy stations.
• A partnership between Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive, Merseytravel, Urbis and a National Trust property which will create ‘learning journeys’ for young people 19-25, older people living in isolation and people recovering from substance abuse. Each learner will use a free bus pass to take journeys around travel ‘lines’, including the Engineering Line, the Football Line and the Mersey Beat Line.
• A project at Tyneside Cinema, in partnership with Newcastle University, to use the cinema’s new spaces and facilities to deliver digital technology, moving image, communications and IT learning to a wide range of people from different social backgrounds and develop online learning tools for others to share.
• A massive campaign, led by Booktrust and delivered through GP surgeries, libraries and Adult Education centres, to inspire thousands of over-60s to take up reading or writing for pleasure.

Kevin Brennan, Minister for Further Education, Skills and Consumer Affairs, said: 'We’re happy to announce 213 successful recipients of our Transformation Fund grants, awarded in the face of stiff competition from a field of 1,400 applications. With projects ranging from creative writing and music to reading and art, it’s encouraging to see so many imaginative ideas for giving adults more opportunities to learn for the love of it. The benefits of learning for pleasure in an informal setting are wide-ranging, and they benefit the community as well as the individual. I hope that many people will develop the confidence and the local connections to take a big step towards a brighter future.'

The announcement about the latest Transformation Fund grants follows the award of £1 million worth of ‘early bird’ funding in July. Alan Tuckett, Chief Executive of NIACE, added: '“NIACE is proud to have the role of supporting the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in managing the Transformation Fund. We argued in our response to the Informal Adult Learning consultation that there is no better stimulus for local adult learning providers than the creation of a fund to trigger innovation and new partnerships. There’s already evidence from the ‘early bird’ bids of how creative and imaginative community-based adult learning can be when given the funding to put ideas into practice.'

Informal adult learning encompasses a wide variety of activities and can range from a self-organised reading group in a village hall to a guided visit to nature reserve or stately home. Other Learning Revolution activities include The Learning Revolution Festival: a month-long celebration of informal adult learning that kicks off in October 2009.

To find out more about The Learning Revolution, visit:

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