Efforts to combat social exclusion will dominate debate at next month's Association of Colleges annual conference in Harrogate. Over the next four weeks Simon Midgely will be setting the scene and looking at how colleges are meeting Government growth targets
A partnership between Blackpool and The Fylde College and a local junior school is helping to widen participation by offering basic skills and introductory computer courses to the parents and relatives of pupils.
Claremont junior school, which is in one of Blackpool's Single Regeneration Budget wards, has set up a family learning centre with a suite of computers, where parents can study while their children are being taught elsewhere in the school.
The college equipped the centre with software and is providing the computing and basic skills lecturers to teach the courses.
The centre, which opened in September, is already running a foundation word-processing course and hopes to offer other programmes in effective parenting, counselling and parents as educators.
Many local residents are unemployed with few skills,and have had bad experiences of formal education. The courses are free and the programme is funded by the local authority, the Further Education Funding Council and the Single Regeneration Budget.
Christine Richards, the college's business development manager, says many local residents already see the school as the centre of their community and this helps to lessen their fear of learning. "If you find out what they want to study, that switches the light on," she said. "And that acts as a pathway to other things."