A new initiative that aims to transform coffee shops into FE colleges has been launched across the country.
PopUp College, which was founded by entrepreneur Jason Elsom, works by partnering FE providers with nearby branches of Costa Coffee, and utilising the coffee shops for adult education classes after they have closed for the evening. The initiative offers learners the chance to study a range of qualifications, including GCSEs, introductory language courses and English for speakers of other languages (Esol).
The initiative has partnered with 15 FE colleges and independent learning providers to date, including Exeter, Warwickshire, Barnfield, Bournemouth & Poole, Vision West Nottinghamshire and Seevic colleges. The colleges manage the process, including providing the teaching staff and deciding which programmes to offer, while Costa offers use of its coffee shops for free. The colleges pay what Mr Elsom describes as a "small fee" to PopUp to cover the organisation's organising and marketing costs.
Mr Elsom told TES: “It’s about really making people feel relaxed, not sitting in rows of seats in a classroom, like you often find in a classroom environment, and that’s what we’re conveying to the learning providers as well. It’s got to be something that people enjoy doing, not... what they might learn in the kind of standard way."
'Fill the map'
Mr Elsom says that he hopes to “fill the map” and bring PopUp College to people who live in rural communities. He also plans to double the number of colleges participating with the initiative from 15 to 30.
“[Costas are] everywhere," he says. "Which means that if you’re driving down...a motorway from Cambridge to Ipswich, where perhaps you’re half an hour from the nearest FE college, you’ve got a Costa. So we can access probably several thousands or tens of thousands of people who live in rural communities, who first of all wouldn’t necessarily consider going to college, but secondly perhaps wouldn’t do the half hour each way drive to go to a college."