The Open University in Wales Citizens’ Curriculum: Tenant learning pilot

Darren Jones, Senior Manager, The Open University in Wales


18 09 2023


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As Wales’ leading provider of flexible, distance learning, The Open University in Wales (OU in Wales) seeks to enable people and communities to fulfil their potential no matter what their background.

We are working in partnership with Merthyr Valleys Homes (MVH) and TPAS Cymru to deliver a new pilot project aligned to the Welsh Government’s aim of developing a second chance nation.

The project is asking tenants to focus on the things which are important to them and their community and supporting them to use the many assets and skills they already have. Tenants’ learning experiences, interests, and needs are shaping a bespoke workshop programme which will start in local community venues in the autumn. Workshops will support people to access informal or formal learning opportunities at a level that is right for them.

The OU in Wales is pleased to be working with L&W and a wide range of partners, to test and develop a Citizens’ Curriculum for people in Wales. More information on the other four pilots can be found on the L&W website, who are coordinating the overall programme on behalf of Welsh Government.

Building trust

Merthyr Valleys Homes (a mutual housing association) and TPAS Cymru (a national membership organisation) are sharing their expertise in meaningful tenant engagement during the ongoing co-design phase of the pilot. The areas of Treharris, Bedlinog and Trelewis are the focus of in-person activities but there is scope for tenants from across Merthyr to engage in subsequent stages of the pilot. The objectives of this first phase are:

  • Developing trust with tenants and alleviating concerns through forming connections and relationships.
  • Identifying individuals’ learning experience, interests, and needs to match them with relevant learning opportunities.
  • Creating a bespoke workshop programme shaped by members of the community.

“My life and community”

The citizens’ curriculum approach seeks to ensure that people are learning skills which are relevant to their lives and work. The OU also believes that it is important people return to learning at a level that is right for them. Conversations with residents in this pilot therefore focus on their:

  • hobbies and interests
  • employability and skills
  • home and community.

Bespoke workshops

In the second phase of the pilot, tenants will receive support to access the OU’s informal and formal learning pathways in a series of workshops. Working with partners, we will draw upon the OU’s OpenLearn Champions advocacy programme to help break down the barriers to learning amongst residents. The workshops in community venues will introduce OU learning materials which align with the priorities identified by residents in the co-design phase. By the end of this second phase, we aim to have:

  • Helped raise the confidence of workshop participants.
  • Increased the number of people regularly accessing informal courses.
  • Supported people to identify and pursue any appropriate further learning or study opportunities with the OU, or another education provider.

Next steps

Throughout the pilot, we will be engaging with wider stakeholders to explore opportunities for future joint support of tenants. We are looking forward seeing how the outcomes of the pilot in Merthyr will shape the development of a learning pathway for tenants in social housing across Wales.

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