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Marking the 50th anniversary of The Open University a special OU50 Award recognises the values it was created with – disrupting, innovating and extending educational opportunity.

This celebratory award goes to an organisation who is creating the same impact in Wales today.

Monkton Priory Primary School has been on a mission to engage parents and the wider community in adult learning for many years with outstanding results. The school has not stood still but has moved forward, innovating and developing provision which has been life changing for many.

In 2012 Launch Adult Learning was created by Headteacher, Shelley Morris, she says, “Our mission was to provide adult education in the community. The project has a clear purpose – achieving the best outcomes, raising attainment and aspirations for children within the setting and this goes hand in hand with providing opportunities for learning, skills and qualifications for parents.”

Accredited courses are available and designed to remove barriers so that parents and the wider community can gain the confidence and skills to find employment.

The school operates in an environment where 50% of children are entitled to free school meals, 40% of children have additional learning needs, 30% of children are from the Gypsy Roma and Traveller community.

An Adult Learning co-ordinator was employed by the school to deliver Launch – parents and the wider community were asked about the courses they wanted and considered what local employers were looking for, to enable some of the barriers of getting into work to be addressed. As a result, Site Safety training has been a key part of the offer – attracting many men in the community and giving them access to one of the largest employers in the area.

The project has been focused on finding solutions to create opportunities. One of the main barriers to learning for students was child care.  Launch now offer a free crèche with every course, however this highlighted a shortage of quality crèche workers available. Rather than let this stop developments, Launch applied to become a learning centre which enabled them to write and deliver accredited courses, tailor made for the community’s needs.  Kellie Bellmaine is the co-ordinator of Launch, she said “I gained the qualifications required to become a tutor and wrote an accredited crèche worker course, which included the safeguarding qualification.  We now have a pool of qualified crèche workers, and they’ve accessed employment not only with us, but with other partner organisations.”

A key aim of the Launch offer is around progression for students, and feedback reflected that this was also something the community wanted.  A significant and hugely successful relationship is with the University of Wales Trinity St David (UWTSD).  Outreach delivery means that since 2012 students can study for a Foundation degree in Inclusive education at the school.  This was so successful that students can now study for a further one year and gain a BA Degree in Inclusive Education.

Lisa Wilson is a parent who has accessed the courses, she has eight children and is a grandmother to three. She says, “I was approached to start a foundation degree at the school. I could not even turn on a computer, but I was booked onto a First Steps course and I took another course to improve my IT skills.  I have not studied since leaving school but felt it was time that I did something for myself and to be a positive role model to my children and grandchildren.” After gaining the foundation degree, Lisa graduated with a BA in 2016.

Four-year groups now run in the evenings, since 2012, 79 students have gained a Foundation degree, 53 students have gained a full BA degree, with 18 of these graduates identifying as GRT (Gypsy Romany Traveller). This innovation means that the school now has seven Learning Support Assistants working at the school with degrees and at the end of 2016 Launch were approached by UWTSD to offer another part-time degree programme in Youth and Community Work.

Sue Ainsworth of UWTSD says, “The Launch team have created a warm and welcoming learning environment which supports us in putting students, particularly our less traditional students, at their ease. Students tell us that they would not be undertaking these degree programmes if they had to travel to a university campus in order to complete them. We are proud to deliver our degrees in such an inclusive and supportive school.”

“Learning Together is our school motto.  The children see that education doesn’t finish when you become an adult, seeing their parents and other adults studying sends a powerful message about the importance of learning, and has a hugely positive impact on the lives of both the child and the adult.”