By Daniel Hunter

Fifteen partnerships across the country have been invited to take part in a pilot scheme that will give communities more power to choose which adult learning courses are available in their area, Skills Minister John Hayes announced today (Friday).

The ‘Community Learning Trusts’ will involve colleges, adult education services, businesses and voluntary organisations working together with their surrounding communities to provide courses that local people want.

The successful pilots range from five community learning forums being set up in regeneration areas in Sunderland, to a social enterprise in West Sussex which will expand the role of volunteer community champions to inspire people to get in to learning.

The pilot trusts will start in August and will work to:

- Boost the number of people participating in learning.

- Motivate and help people who are disadvantaged.

- Have a positive impact on people’s lives.

- Generate income to reinvest in learning.

Mr Hayes said:

“Learning is the lifeblood of personal and economic growth in our local communities, which is why we are working with these fifteen pilots to pioneer new ways of learning that put local people at the forefront of the decision-making process.

“By bringing passion, purpose and innovative thinking to the pilot scheme, the Community Learning Trusts can change lives by transforming attitudes and abilities, bringing communities together to nurture the common good.”

Verity Bullough, Executive Director of Capacity and Infrastructure, Skills Funding Agency said:

“We expect to learn a great deal from these innovative pilots. They will be leading the way in showing how an inclusive, locally-based community learning offer — supported by the effective targeting of public money and income generated from other sources each pilot has identified — can positively and measurably impact on the social and economic well-being of individuals, families and communities”.

David Hughes, Chief Executive of NIACE said:

“The Government’s support for these 15 Community Learning Trust pilots shows that they understand the value of, and are committed to supporting community learning. NIACE has always advocated for learning which empowers adults and the communities they live in.

“We know that a better understanding of what people want to achieve and a joint approach to designing learning leads to better outcomes.

“We are excited to be supporting and learning from these pilot Community Learning Trusts and look forward to the ideas and processes they will formulate over the next twelve months which will set the agenda for community learning in the future.”

In another initiative which will work alongside the Community Learning Trusts, John Hayes announced this week that UK Online centres are testing thinking around community ‘e-reading rooms’, which will provide free and friendly access to computers. This will build on their success after they helped to get one million people online in the past two and half years, reaching their target six months early.

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