The organisations we work with include...
♦ Family Centres
and many more....
Partnership is central to our work in the community and laptops, on loan from Learning Curve in Wiltshire have been put to good use. Pictured here, are tenants from Wiltshire Housing Society with their tutor, who all enjoyed a computer course.
What follows are more detailed case studies on some of our successful partnerships. If you see potential for working in partnership with the WEA please use the contacts list to let us know.
Case Study One
Windmill Hill City Farm
"A place where people grow"
Windmill Hill City Farm is an independent community project seeking to meet the needs of local people in the South Bristol area through a wide range of social, environmental, recreational and economic activities. It is run by a voluntary management committee of local residents elected by Farm members. Its mission statement is to be 'a place where people grow'. Since 2004, the WEA and the Farm have worked together in a positive and rewarding partnership, with 40-50 WEA courses being run at Windmill Hill each year.
The site, which has been running since 1976, includes a working farm, community gardens, a children and family centre, sports pitch, training centre, craft room, community room, café and shop. Its adult services are delivered through a Community Involvement Team, coordinated by occupational therapist Nicky Bacon and social worker Beth Yardsley. Their role is to support the engagement of people in all areas of the Farm - but particularly people who can find themselves marginalised by society including those with mental health problems and learning difficulties.
The WEA run courses are attended by a total of around 450 learners. Two-thirds of the learners who attend are in receipt of a means tested benefit while one-quarter live in disadvantaged postcodes. A fifth of the learners declare that they have some form of disability. The community involvement team have regular contact with voluntary and statutory service providers and are able to support people in accessing a range of services. This unique provision allows the Farm to be very socially inclusive and as a result all courses are made up of students with a wide range of abilities and needs.
The farm is valued highly by service providers for its ability to meet the frequently complex needs of their service users in a discreet but supportive manner, enabling them to move forward with their learning and with their lives.
One of Glen Gilmore's paintings
Case History: Glen Gilmore
Courses: Drawing and Painting, Jewellery making, Beginners Computers
Glen is 45 and lives alone. He started to struggle with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) at the age of 7. His symptoms are so disabling that he has never been able to work and has had intensive support from mental health services including an admission to a specialist unit at the Maudsley hospital. Unfortunately nothing has been able to help and Glenn's life has been very limited and distressing. He has a fear that touching every day objects will cause him to harm people and he experiences very distressing images and thoughts. This means that using basic tools, even making a mark with a pencil is a struggle.
Glen was told about the Courses at Windmill Hill City Farm by a community care worker with Bristol South Community Mental Health Team. Glen says, "I now do three courses at the farm and it's been magic. Even though it's hard I have a reason to get out of my house, something to look forward to. Before, getting out of my house was a nightmare but now, come what may, I always get to my course because I enjoy it so much. When I go out I take my sketch book with me now and it helps me to focus on things outside of my head. With the help of my learner support worker I can now even use sharp tools and do the soldering in jewellery making, it's a miracle and I just want to keep on going and getting better at what I am learning and how I am living."
Jenny, the tutor for the drawing and painting class, adds: "Glen has not only made progress with his art work but with his confidence. He discusses his work confidently in the group and socialises with the other students. It is great to see Glen being able to take responsibility for directing his own work as previously he would have needed a lot more support and encouragement. His art work has gone from strength to strength and he is using perspective and shading and producing strong images."
The following agencies regularly support people to attend WEA courses at Windmill Hill
♦ South Bristol Community Mental Health Teams based at Petherton and Bristol General Hospital
Case History: Richard Vaux
Courses: Digital Photography and Photoshop
Richard is 37 and lives with his partner and their 8 month old son. Richard worked as a carpet fitter but had to stop work when he tore a ligament in his leg 7 years ago. Since then he has had odd jobs in building work and decorating. Richard said that at his age and with the responsibility of having a child that this is his last opportunity to develop a career in something that really interests him.
Richard has been interested in photography for a long time but has not had the time, equipment or opportunity to learn in a structured way. Richard described himself as always being a bit of a loner so he has found it a big step to be in a group of like minded people. He found the tutors understood the needs and experiences of the different members of the group and this was very helpful: "They are good at meeting the needs of all the learners - who have a real range of skills and abilities - and to make everyone feel involved and valued."
Richard feels that he has found something that he is passionate about and has been looking into progressing from the WEA courses on to a two-year media and photography course at City of Bristol College. He now spends a lot of time experimenting with his camera and feels that starting from the beginning on the WEA courses has enabled him to build on the basics: "Not only have I learnt the technical skills but I have learnt a lot creatively about composition. It is great learning together as a group and inspiring each other. Peter, the tutor, has suggested that I could volunteer with the class and support other learners. I feel really flattered that he values my skills and I think that it will be great work experience for me."
WEA courses run at Windmill Hill
'It has been great to see the positive impact of the WEA courses on the mental health of the people who I have supported to enrol. I have seen an identity shift in my clients: before, they would be totally preoccupied with their mental problems - that was their world - now they are focusing on things outside of themselves, that they really enjoy, and developing passions. It has helped them to shape who they are, to become people with interests and talents. They can be in classes with a whole range of different people and are valued for what they can do and the progress they are making. The environment for the learners is supportive because staff at the Farm have training and experience of working with people with mental health problems - if they do need additional support it is available and they can even have one-to-one help if they need it. I have had bad experiences with so many students at college where they have not been supported and it has ended up being a negative experience which has taken them backwards. At the Farm they just grow and I have seen my clients lives transformed.'
Katie Wilshire, Occupational Therapist, Missing Link
'One lady [who I referred to WEA courses at Windmill Hill] did the digital photography course and is now doing a BTEC course at Soundwell College. She hopes to go on to do an access to art course with a view to going to university. The courses at the farm have given her a new lease of life. She was struggling with all aspects of her life and even in danger of losing her young son. I now see her as a confident, capable and talented woman with a passion for art. The WEA courses started the transformation. The impact on individuals and society is enormous. When people are feeling more positively about their lives they use all sorts of services less - including going to their GPs, hospital admissions and self harming and having to go to A&E. They are less dependant on support agencies and also as their confidence grows they are able to contribute more to society. It may be that they are able to be more effective as a parent or to move forward in to work and to break out of the benefit trap. By feeling more included in society and less disempowered there are a great many ways in which they may have a higher level of civic engagement, for instance by feeling able to join a tenants association or to do voluntary work. Once people start to move forward there is often no stopping them and the WEA courses at the Farm start the ball rolling in a very real sense.'
Anna Appleton, Support Worker, Missing Link
Missing Link is a Bristol organisation that works with women with mental health problems.
WEA courses at the Carlton Centre
The WEA and North Somerset Education and Training Consortium (NSETC) work closely together to provide access to employment, volunteering, education, leisure, health and more satisfying lifestyles for Consortium clients recovering from mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse.
The partnership provides learning opportunities which give students a greater understanding of the importance of rights and responsibilities. Experience shows that this can change individuals' lives by improving their confidence and self-esteem, helping to remove some of the barriers to inclusion in education, such as previous bad experiences of learning or lack of confidence and self-esteem. The work addresses the social and economic exclusion faced by the client group and promotes active recovery pathways in three main ways:
- through partnerships with frontline services - treatment and health agencies
- through education and support - personal development and innovative courses
- by improving employability - skills development through volunteering, sport and work
"I am really happy that I got into this course. It has helped me in many different ways. It has given me confidence to talk with other people and to work with others. The tutor is really helpful and easy to talk to and answers any questions that I need to know."
'Creative Writing' student
"I thought the tutor was exceptional. Her methods and organisational skills were brilliant. The Carlton Centre has helped me keep out of trouble and keep my life more on track."
Woodwork can help improve practical skills and prepare students for possible community-based employment. The Carlton Centre, where most of the WEA courses are delivered, is based in the centre of Weston-super-Mare and was identified as an ideal venue when NSETC was formed in 1995. The centre's resources are designed to enhance access to safe learning and personal development services. Central to the development of the Consortium itself is the WEA's ethos of learner-focused education, which enables the provision of innovative training programmes offering integrated advice, support, education and essential life skills, which in turn lead to social inclusion and contribute to economic recovery.
In addition to the benefits for individual learners, there have been benefits for the local community, to health services and the local economy. Offering opportunities for people to improve their lifestyles and increase their lifestyle choices, through employment, voluntary work, leisure and other meaningful occupations has a positive impact on the area in general. Through training and support, clients and students become more socially interactive and better prepared to cope with the pressures of finding paid or voluntary work. Records show that, as a result of the Weston-super-Mare support programme, many clients and students have been discharged from the healthcare service, moved to independent living or have ceased or reduced their smoking, drinking and drug taking habits in exchange for healthier pursuits.
WEA tutors provide on-course and end-of-course support to individual learners to help them reflect on
a) what they want to achieve on their course;
b) what they have achieved on their course, and
c) what they may wish to do next.
Some examples of progression routes recommended to learners by WEA tutors are:
♦ Further reading lists
"The support provided by the excellent WEA tutors and managers, and the commitment shown by them to the Consortium partnership has been immense and very telling. The WEA have enabled a key local network to establish a reputation for addressing social inclusion within the Learning and Skill Council's Weston area.
We have especially benefited form the WEA's extensive experience in providing accessible and high quality learning for disabled and disadvantaged adults and their ability to work in partnership with others. I personally have found the support of WEA managers invaluable. The WEA have just completed a National lottery bid in an attempt to strengthen the third sector contribution to the Consortium."
Paul Davis, Project Manager, North Somerset Education & Training Consortium (NSETC)
Building confidence through horticulture: a student turns the soil on his own plot to prepare for spring planting. Note the other individual plot and the communal area.
Case Study: Brian
Brian (not his real name) was first referred to the Carlton Centre in 2006. He is an alcoholic living in a 'dry house' and wanted to attend some courses to keep occupied. Following one of the weekly Carlton Centre drop-in sessions, Brian attended an Information, Advice and Guidance interview. From that, it was discovered he enjoyed gardening and had been a painter and decorator in the past. It was suggested he joined one of the WEA's 'Horticulture' classes.
As Brian also suffered extreme lack of confidence and was looking for something to help him be more self-assured, the WEA's Confidence course was also recommended to him. As Brian's confidence grew over time he enrolled on a WEA Drama course, and enjoyed it so much that he went on to complete a second drama course. This greatly helped him to present more positively in social situations. With his newly found confidence, Brian now volunteers on the Carlton Centre's 'Tools for Self Reliance' programme, where old tools are repaired and cleaned before being sent to developing countries in Africa. Carlton Centre volunteers on this project must agree to attend regularly and Brian is now able to do so.
Although not yet ready for full-time employment, Brian has been invited to attend the Carlton Centre Client Focus Group. Many of those attending are current or former WEA students. Opportunities are given for group members to discuss the availability and range of courses offered at the Carlton Centre and to comment on the effectiveness of the service as a whole. Although Brian was unsure when he first joined the Carlton Centre, with the help of the WEA and other consortium partners, he is now moving forward with greater confidence and dedication.
Case Study: Miriam
Miriam (not her real name) is a 48 year old woman who self-referred to the Carlton Centre. Married with grown-up children, she had become anxious, suffered severe panic attacks and was on medication. She also suffered other health problems, including agoraphobia. Miriam had not worked for a long time and had been asked to leave her previous job due to her panic attacks. Miriam suffered a panic attack at her initial interview with the Carlton Centre, but overcame that and stayed for the remainder of the time; a major achievement for her. The outcome from the interview was that she signed up for a WEA Shiatsu course. Although still suffering panic attacks when she first attended the class, her determination to stay was strong and she became more confident with each passing week. The WEA tutor was very supportive and put strategies in place to help her through each session.
Miriam's confidence grew. Each time she started a new course, or anything new was introduced, she would initially panic, but would soon recover. The attacks also became less violent. Miriam also passed an English exam and wanted to work towards employment again by setting up her own dog sitting and walking business. Working Communities, who regularly visit the Carlton Centre to advise and give support on such matters, put her in touch with a group running NVQ courses for women wishing to set up in business. Jane passed the Level 3 course and has now started her own dog-sitting business.
The WEA Shiatsu class Miriam signed up to was the beginning of her journey towards running her own business. The course complemented other activities in her life and enabled her to stay calm and cope in stressful situations. Further progression followed naturally as she gained greater confidence and self belief with the help of some good advice, guidance and tuition at the right time.
"The tutor's support, teaching methods and friendly motivation, makes for the course to be honest. A nervous person like myself needs this. Her tips and wide knowledge of the subject are just what's needed to progress as a student."
'Basic Painting' student
"I have been the Creative Writing tutor at the Carlton Centre in Weston-super-Mare for a few years. The facilities are great, with clean, well decorated, airy rooms, which make the delivery of the sessions both pleasant and enjoyable. The groups I have had the privilege to tutor are varied in terms of emotional and intellectual needs, but without fail I have thoroughly enjoyed the challenge and been delighted with the uptake and response of the learners. Not only have some of them gone on to write creatively for themselves, but they have inspired me, too!
It is fantastic that the WEA enables and facilitates these sessions, which really make a difference to peoples' lives. I look forward to developing my skills further and to tutoring many more creative writing sessions."
Jane Flood, Creative Writing Tutor
NSETC member organisations
|♦ North Somerset Council
♦ Avon & Wiltshire Partnership Health Trust
♦ Workers' Educational Association
♦ Jobcentre Plus
♦ Weston College
♦ Goblin Combe Environmental Centre
♦ Local GP practices
♦ Housing Support Agencies
♦ Priory School (Community Learning Section)
♦ Information Advice and Guidance Network
♦ Voluntary Action in North Somerset