The "Learning Zone" at Two Saints Day Centre

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Two Saints runs an open access day centre in Southampton for homeless and vulnerably housed people, and the Learning Zone is an integrated part of the centre. It provides a place for people to improve their basic skills through creative and practical projects, including art, cookery, gardening, pottery, photography, cycle maintenance or anything else of personal interest, and also hosts exhibitions of artwork and produces a regular magazine of creative writing. The aim is that through improving their skills, clients will grow in confidence and self esteem, and this will combat the marginalisation they often experience. Learning is made accessible to the centre's clients because their immediate practical needs are met, on the basis that "you can't teach anyone who is hungry, cold, wet or distressed", and because the practical projects include basic skills in a non-threatening way.

What goes on The Adult and Community Learning Fund (ACLF) grant allowed for the establishment of the Learning Zone - a safe and relaxed environment, important for clients who had had a negative experience of traditional learning. Each participant had an initial basic skills assessment, including a learner risk assessment, because of the nature of the client group. An individual learning plan was developed with a qualified tutor, and clients then worked at their own pace, beginning in the first stage Learning Zone room with a practical or creative subject with integrated basic skills work. The tailored learning plans helped clients with poor study skills and challenging social behaviour, by not expecting them to fit into a structured course of study.

Second and third "rungs" or rooms were established for further learning, and clients were helped to explore progression routes to further education, training, employment or voluntary work, including delivering learning to other participants. Participants were also given opportunities to take part in a group activity such as an Internet club or contributing to the magazine, and to take up onsite, accredited basic skills courses. The IT facilities gave them access to the Internet and email, and they were able to set up their own web pages. The centre manager stressed the importance of making available high quality, appealing reading material, and found that if for example comics were left "lying around", they soon disappeared!

Results of the project

As a result of the project, participants improved their communications skills and their confidence in dealing with tasks in everyday life. They were able to contribute to the community: for example, some participants donated money from the sale of their artwork to a local children's charity. Staff also observed an increased stability in clients' housing and health situations. Staff themselves increased their awareness of basic skills issues, with some receiving training to support the clients.


Partnerships

Partnership with the local further education college, the local council, the Rough Sleepers Unit and Scottish Power meant that Two Saints was able to expand the project to other areas such as its hostel and substance misuse service. The Learning Zone has continued to run, and the UK Online initiative has enabled it to provide over a dozen PCs on site. The ongoing partnership with Southampton City College offers clients access to more regular, structured learning.


Links:

For more information, including examples of clients' work, visit:www.homelesspages.co.uk, call 01329 234600 or email admin@twosaints.org.uk

This example was taken from: www.basic-skills.co.uk/site/page.php?cms=3&p=586

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