14th March 2003 at 00:00
Islington's Lifelong Learning Service, led by Chris Jude, has established a plethora of ICT initiatives in a borough which - belying it's media portrayal as the luvvie nirvana of North London - has large areas of social deprivation scattered among the gilded squares and trendy eateries.

In the last year alone, the service has opened seven neighbourhood learning centres (14 more are due in 2003), delivered 1,200 hours of ICT training from the mobile learning bus, set up learneasy.net - a website for those seeking education, learning and employment in the borough - and piloted a digital TV project giving residents access to learning opportunities, council services and community channels.

Barely two years ago, Adult Community Learning was a "Cinderella" service, run on very traditional lines and inadequately funded. In 1999, the council spent just pound;346,000 on adult education. In the past 18 months alone the ICT partnership has attracted pound;4 million from a range of Government sources.

One of the projects to have benefited from Chris's initiative is the Islington African Project whose director, Rebecca Brown, nominated Chris for the Becta award. The IAP enables hundreds of people from all over the world to cross the digital divide and seeks to promote computer literacy among its members. The working partnership between the two organisations is, according to Rebecca Brown, "highly linked, networked and very supportive", but what is especially valued is that, under Chris Jude's astute leadership, "we have retained our focus on delivery and our independence - we are not dictated to".

"Islington is a very polarised community", says Chris Jude, "but what makes it different is that you'll find that polarisation in virtually every ward.

That produces its own kind of challenges".


Paul Groome

Paul Groome runs the intranet at South East Essex College

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