From education to employment

Survey shows NLDC projects are improving the prospects of those in need

A new survey from Ofsted today reveals Neighbourhood Learning in Deprived Communities (NLDC) projects are effectively improving opportunities for education, training and employment for those in need.

The Learning and Skills Council (LSC) launched the NLDC fund in 2002 to support the delivery and development of learning opportunities for those living in disadvantaged neighbourhoods. LSC provides roughly £10 million annually to support NLDC capital projects, and around £20 million annually on NLDC learning initiatives.

The report, The role of adult learning in community renewal: Neighbourhood Learning in Deprived Communities programmes, also shows the projects play a key role in bringing communities together.

Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Christine Gilbert, said: “Neighbourhood Learning in Deprived Communities funded projects can be instrumental in engaging hard to reach learners. It’s encouraging to see that most providers are using the funding well, and establishing strong partnerships with local organisations to contribute positively to community regeneration, and better prepare residents with skills for employment.”

On the whole, the survey revealed adult learning providers are extremely effective at engaging specific, targeted groups such as lone parents, people with disabilities, minor ethnic minority groups and young offenders. It found two-thirds of adult learning providers surveyed have been successful in developing strong links with local partner organisations to ensure NLDC funding is meeting a diverse range of needs. Three quarters also said learners gained qualifications and then moved on to other forms of learning. The majority develop good presentation and communication skills, and often became more involved in local projects and events.

Three-quarters of providers surveyed had established targets for increasing the focus of funding on skills for jobs, following revised funding guidelines introduced in 2007. However, the definition of such skills was not found to be consistent across providers.

Ms Gilbert added: “It’s critically important that we keep sight of the bigger picture. Whilst employability skills have a very positive impact on community regeneration and renewal, it’s important that providers don’t narrow their focus too much. They must ensure projects are sustainable, and have the capacity to develop and grow. This may mean looking for further funding on a long term basis.”

Only one in ten of projects in the survey became permanently established, despite three quarters experiencing short term success. Most of the projects that achieved long term stability were found to benefit from an enthusiastic activist to drive the cause.

Ofsted believe regular evaluation of the impact of NLDC funding on projects is vital for long term stability. Although most providers used some form of self-assessment, Ofsted say it is essential to review how funding is meeting the needs of the neighbourhood as a whole, as well as individuals.

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