Glasgow gives learners something to chew on
The many agencies in the field must be "able to sort out a whole package for a potential learner - good quality guidance, choice of modes of learning and information about financing learning".
Every local authority has to provide the Executive with a community learning strategy by the end of this month, followed by plans for delivering the strategy at local level. Glasgow commissioned Sheila Clarke and Bob Bissell at Glasgow Caledonian University's centre for education and training development to map the extent of community learning available at present and to identify the needs of existing and potential users and those who show no interest.
An extensive range of opportunities has been identified, but not necessarily attuned to the needs of particular individuals. For example, a facility may be designed for young people rather than for adults, or for those who have good learning experiences but not for the disaffected.
The researchers state: "For the disafected non-learners, perhaps the best we can say is that there is a loose fit between some of the needs and some of the provision." Potential users "seem well provided for in terms of finding out what is available". That is partly because of recent emphasis on opening up routes to learning rather than continuing to extend provision.
Those working with potential learners include the "large and active" Adult Guidance Network, New Deal personal advisers and in future the Scottish University for Industry, through free phone lines and learning centres. Learning and training credits and various grants, as well as creches and other pre-five facilities, are removing some of the barriers.
But Ms Clarke and Mr Bissell add: "We do not yet have a clear enough picture of how the map of provision corresponds to the demographic map to know how serious is the barrier of distance to travel and the cost of travel."
Mr Bissell told The TES Scotland: "Local authorities have approached the development of a strategy in various way. This was the right way to go about it in an area as complex as Glasgow, but I hope that a similar mapping exercise won't be needed each year."
He added: "I saw a graffito in Drumchapel which read, 'You can't eat a strategy'."