"The Survey" - Learning Towns, Learning Cities
Contents Page |
Summary of Developments |
Milton Keynes |
Other Initiatives |
Norwich learns for life
"Learning for Life" is what they're up to in Norwich. Spurred on by the Economic Development Committee of the City Council, a small group of partners began developing the idea of the Learning City back in 1995.
One source of inspiration for this group was the DfEE's "Learning Pays" toolkit which ties lifelong learning to economic development. The partners also drew on the experience of similar initiatives in Edinburgh and Liverpool. A number of meetings and discussions took place to develop the concept further and report the results to the Economic Development Committee. The partners stressed the key role of the City Council as broker and coordinator in the competitive arena of education and training and recommended that the links between lifelong learning and competitiveness should be explored.
The concept of a Learning City was built into the first draft of the Economic Strategy for Norwich which was launched for consultation in 1996. This draft strategy is coordinated by the City Council but is owned by a wide range of local partners.
The next stage was to involve other groups, such as employers and others with community interests to share commitment for the learning city and plan future action. A consultative conference was held in September 1996, attended by 150 people. The Norwich group also joined the embryo network of Learning Cities. Following publication of the TEC National Development Agenda, a bid was submitted for funding. The partners also contributed to a leaflet produced by the Norwich Area Development Agency (NADA) to market local learning provision to potential inward investors. NADA is a local private/public sector partnership which acts as a catalyst for economic development including encouraging inward investment and promoting the city. A “Bargaining for Skills” Trade Union education programme was also developed by the TEC with trades unions locally.
Partners in the initial phase:
All representatives were senior managers. The group was aware that certain sectors were missing, notably schools and employers, but felt that plans needed to be more advanced before seeking serious involvement from these sectors. After the September conference the group expanded to include:
NIACE and the Government Office for the Eastern Region are also involved.
Target setting and action planning
The Norwich partners published an action plan for the Learning City for the financial year 1997 / 98. It provides an agenda for action developed from the conference and the comments received during the consultation which followed it. A further consultation exercise conducted in early 1998 resulted in the second annual action plan for 1998 / 99 being launched in May 1998 as part of the updated Economic Strategy for Norwich.
The Learning City is one of six key strategic objectives in the Norwich Economic Strategy, reflecting the need to place the concept in the wider context of social and economic policy. Consultation about the Learning City has also been included in the public consultation on Local Agenda 21 and developing Norwich as a Learning City is an important element of Norwich 21.
It is important that the link between economic development and learning should be underpinned by sound understanding of local skills levels and needs. As a result, the development of Performance Indicators have been discussed throughout the project. Baseline's and targets were set within the Norwich Economic Strategy. Subsequently target setting was addressed in detail for 5 wards of the City to meet the requirements for a (successful) SRB bid.
Norwich contributed to the development of the National Learning City Network/DFEE Commissioned good practice guide on assessing learning communities and delayed further detailed work on benchmarking and target setting until it's recommendations were released in May 1998.
Outstanding issues include target setting for providers within the group and how far this is their responsibility; if so, how is progress as a whole and for particular groups to be measured?
Initial problems relating to the development of a shared understanding of the Learning City concept have been resolved. A continuing challenge is to extend this understanding to influential community members to ensure backing for the initiative from all sides and to encourage community ownership and local involvement in the initiative.
There were difficulties in establishing baseline data on skills shortages and training needs. Information from a mid- term census, however, and a developing strategy on baseline data and targets has improved this situation.
There have been problems concerning involving schools and employers which are now being tackled proactively. Many Learning City initiatives are taking place within the remit of a Unitary Authority, but in Norwich both the City and the County have to operate in partnership and this produces an additional set of negotiations.
As the initiative developed, competitive relationships between some of the partners have increasingly been tempered. However, the banner of the Learning City may not be enough in some instances to turn competition into collaboration. There can be little control and only voluntary co-operation when providers who are part of the learning city group are spending their own money and wish to assert their individual identity.
There were problems relating to a lack of core funding for the initiative. However partners have provided funding for a range of specific initiatives and have given generously in terms of office resources. Even small amounts of external funding have produced joint projects and helped develop infrastructure for the initiative as a whole.
Norwich attracted National Development Agenda funding of £25,000. The Challenge was to see whether this money could be used to take the whole initiative forward and for all partners to feel they were benefiting from it.
This was achieved by part funding three flagship initiatives - the initial consultative conference, with associated publicity material, the first Learning Festival and a city centre based Learning Shop. These initiatives helped to cement commitment by:-
The need for dedicated staff for the initiative remained a problem, however a recently successful Learning City SRB bid will now address this issue.
The main challenge now is to extend community involvement in the initiative, which remains "institution led". This will be the focus of the SRB bid, which is linked to a democracy initiative called Community Power.
Progress so far
In Norwich there has been considerable progress in setting an agenda for action for the Leaning City and obtaining commitment locally. Some of the key achievements for the first year are:
Within the following six months, further outputs included:
Efforts are being made to build awareness and influence for the initiative through NADA and the media.
During the last year achievements include :-
Coordination of the initiative continues to be resourced by Norwich City Councils Economic Development Unit.
Partners and various local employers have provided significant staff and cash resources for specific projects. DFEE funding has been obtained for some key aspects .
The successful SRB bid will fund the first dedicated Learning City Worker post from 1999.
Greater collaboration in Norwich and throughout Norfolk and Waveney is now paying off in a range of successful bids related to areas such as Widening Participation and the University for Industry.
Key Facts : Norwich
East Anglia, 43 miles north of Ipswich
126,000 (local authority area) 194,000 Norwich built up area
Schools in the Norwich LA area aided.
6 State Secondary Schools all LEA one is Roman Catholic Voluntary aided. Total roll (September 1997) 6,300 includes 1,800 in sixth forms
HE/FE student enrolments 1996/97. 26,000 (UEA, Norwich City College, Norwich School of Art and Design) Adult Education enrolments: 15,000 (9,058 LEA, 521 FEFC, 260 IT Centre) (1996/97)