Network to Support Trainers in Europe The challenges of using education as a means of addressing persistent unemployment understanding policy and practice through life stories and users’ voices George Roberts Oxford Brookes University 05/11/2008
Much of current policy … is implicitly or explicitly rooted in a … model of exclusion, in which the key element, is labour-force attachment. This is underpinned by a discourse about social integration (SID) in which paid work is represented as the primary or sole legitimate means of integrating individuals of working age into society. (Levitas 1999)
… in neo-liberal Britain, social policy has lost its anchoring in lived realities and lost the forms of supervision and support which are necessary to deeper forms of engagement with users. One consequence is that biographical resources are inadequately recognized and built on, among both users and professionals (Chamberlayne 2004, 346)
The life histories, experiences and voices of the users of community IT centres are largely absent from the literature
Users of centres are represented by synthetic descriptions and models of the problematic other , often culled from the analyses of research into the experience of centre managers and evaluation reports of various initiatives
In respect of adult community education policy there are gaps in our understanding of
the relationship between personal development and community development
the relationship between social capital development and human capital development
the relationship between lifelong learning and continuous retraining
and the relationship between an individual’s responsibility for skills acquisition for existing jobs whatever they may be, and a social, collective responsibility for economic development in order to create new, worthwhile, jobs or other forms of meaningful social and civic participation.
Adult Community Learning is not currently to be included in the demand led funding models although there is no clarity about what is meant by ‘community learning’” (Slowey 2007)
“ Funding of Personal and Community Development Learning (PCDL) will remain outside these funding models for the time being.” (Learning and Skills Council 2007)
“ Leitch Review of Skills has recommended that all publicly-funded adult vocational skills in England, apart from community learning and programmes for those with learning difficulties and/or disabilities , should go through demand-led routes by 2010.” (Learning and Skills Council 2007)
Note the collocation of community learning with “programmes for those with learning difficulties and/or disabilities.” The third leg of this stool is prison-based learning and the rehabilitation of offenders
“ ... the actions of people participating in routine cultural contexts”, where context has “... a central role in the constitution of human nature”. The unit of analysis “... includes individuals and their sociocultural milieu”. (Cole, Engeström et al. 1997)
“ social identity/identification appears to be related in a logical and coherent way to values assumed by people.” (Gouveia, deAlbuquerque et al. 2002)
S So maybe it’s not just the family centre that gave me that energy and that. I think its [this place]. That’s when I became more energised. Moving up here. Coming away from what I’d always been brought up with, to coming here, where, you know I’ve got that sense of belonging and my child’s the happiest I think she’ll ever be.
A That’s good, because they tend to give this estate such a bad name and a lot of people are afraid to come onto [it]. Because they say where do you live and you say [Bluefield Lanes] and they: aowwooh, how can you live up there.
P Like you were saying about walking up the street you can walk from one place to another. I think that everyone can say that. You’re bound to run into someone you know and even if you don’t know they’ll all say hello, you know what I mean …
T If you go to other areas you don’t really get that. People hate that. People in [Bluefield Lanes] … because we are such a large community in ourselves and what we have here you don’t get in other places.
H it’s like now how many years later down the line it’s kind of transformed itself to be true you know like the young people getting involved in a lot of drugs and crime and especially this whole knives and guns thing at the moment as well that’s you know really scary … You know it’s like for me how many more years is it going to be ‘til actually those guns are out because everyone knows somebody in [the city] who’s got some kind of gun or weapon you know what I mean, I don’t care what anyone says somebody knows somebody that’s got something you know and it’s just like because you know we’re not in London or Birmingham, you’re not hearing gunshots every five minutes it’s only a matter of time.
Please tell me the story of your life, the events and experiences that have been important to you, from wherever you want to begin, up to and including the present time: you as a user/volunteer/manager/tutor/friend of the Bluefield Lanes IT Zone
7, stage 1 interviews conducted
Follow-up semi-structured interviews to be conducted in the winter
attempt to get beyond essentialism, ethical foundationalism and hierarchical ordering of identity politics (Gergen)
affirms a sensibility towards the inner dimensions of teaching and practitioner research that would include the imagination, emotion and passion involved in reflective practice (Luckcock)
part of an integrated approach to community – and particularly community-driven – development. interviews and storytelling that draw out ... positive memories, and on a collective analysis of the elements of success. (Mathie & Cunningham)
H There’s the black issue. The black issue’s always been an issue anywhere. I even remember when I was like 20 or 21 there were a lot of West Indians here and stuff so it’s kind of like they never really had a high opinion of Africans then. Do you know what I mean, then it was all kind of like, “I’m African. I’m African [quickly] da da da.” And if you try to say anything about the African ancestry, you know, it’s like, “I’m Jamaican! I’m Jamaican! de de de!” So you know. … people just automatically assume that I am West Indian. They won’t even consider the fact that I’m African. They just straight-away assume that I am West Indian. And even down to the elders in the West Indian community: “Who’s your mum and dad?” You know like, “You won’t know my mum and dad.”
S In [place] it was all about cliques. It was all about fitting in with certain people. But, coming to [Bluefield Lanes] everyone just got on with everyone. Everyone had a sense of belonging. You weren’t just the white person or the black person. You weren’t the older person or the younger person. You were all together, all united. I had a strong sense of belonging after moving to [Bluefield]. I made really strong friendships and I still have them. And, I keep making more friendships through, thing, here.
Counting and dividing (n=11) Superficially representative sample? Information emerged from life stories
Edu<FE: 1, some F/HE: 5, 1 st Deg: 2, PG: 1; uk:2
The already educated continue to participate in PCDL
A I was really kind of always having this dream about having some amazing job one day and never really actually having one. And I think that that happened because um I left school when I was 14 and I had like .. a bit like school phobia and I used to have panic attacks and not go into classrooms. And that was why I didn’t do really well when I was at school. And then … they got me on to an A-level course which I had to abandon because I was pregnant with my first child. So that was when I was 18.
… and when I realised that I could not write a letter I felt quite awful I thought how can I ever be somebody that does jobs and works and stuff so um It’s kind of interesting to remember that but I do remember sitting, sitting and staring at that screen thinking that I can’t write this letter I really can’t do that [laughs] I’m useless, I’m no good, I’m never gona make it.
K My sole purpose for being here was to study all the way to post doctoral level because my father, my father, this was how he seen things … so I embarked onto a long project with financial support from home because that was tradition until I sent to him a letter and said to him: look, I am a grown-up man, you have to understand that things aren’t as they were; we suffered a heavy currency devaluation; therefore there was no need for you to stretch your financial means and send me money; not just that, I could fly by myself.
… critical reflection [is] the deliberate uncovering and challenging of assumptions concerning power and the perpetuation of hegemony. … What makes reflection critical is its … focus on understanding the dynamics of power (and how to manipulate these) and on uncovering (and combating) ruling class hegemony. (Brookfield 2008: 96)
H The other thing I was going to say, I suppose, is that I’m here but I don’t know how much that’s got to do with the IT Hub or even the learning champions.
P I like community learning because it fits around people and whatever’s going on with them, you know what I mean. Universities and colleges are, you know: this is what we got to offer, take it or leave it, whereas with the learning champion type of stuff we’ve been talking to people: what do you want. It can be so varied, you know what I mean?
... the choice of employability as the core mission … is an empty, unsatisfying concept which will sell our people short.
... employability turns the public issue of the dearth of good jobs into the private trouble of constant retraining. [It] does not create an individual, psychological condition, but a new social identity arising out of a new social order, based on short-term capitalism. ...
Employability … militates against students understanding or criticising power relations in college or at work or forming a strong vocational identity.
The sector needs a different future which gives equal weight to social justice and economic prosperity; and why not, for once, in that order? (Coffield, 2006, 6-7)