Springboard, a community learning project developed by Learning Pembrokeshire has been bringing family learning opportunities to schools and communities in some of the poorest parts of Pembrokeshire for over a decade.
The project offers a diverse range of activities to get families engaged in learning together. Alongside one-off workshops, Springboard also engages families in large scale creative projects for the benefit of schools and the wider community.
Laura Phillips is the Springboard and Lifelong Learning Coordinator for South Pembrokeshire. She said: “This is part of a strategy to engage communities in learning and address poverty by offering free opportunities to learn in a way that’s both informal and easy to access. Many of the parents or grandparents haven’t done any formal learning in a long time. They often struggle with their confidence, and many families are under some level of financial pressure. We do everything we can to make sure that everybody has a chance to engage, whatever barriers they face.”
There has been a huge increase in demand for Springboard’s courses after schools re-opened. “We’ve been overwhelmed with the interest from parents, they’re desperate to get involved with their children’s schools after so many closures”.
“We’ve developed partnerships with new schools and had funding to work with children aged 0-5. Children in this age group have been impacted massively by the pandemic, their speech and language needs are much greater now than they were pre-COVID.”
In the last 10 years alone, Springboard has offered over 1,600 different courses and engaged with over 3,600 adult learners. Over 70% of those learners go onto further learning after their initial engagement with the project.
“So many of our learners are hesitant at the start, it’s amazing to see how their confidence improves after a few classes. Some go on to enrol on multiple courses with us, take on accredited courses or go back to college. We give parents time to really focus on learning with one child at a time, which can be difficult with multiple children. It offers them a break, a chance to be themselves. There’s no better advert for learning, for a child, than a parent who is choosing to learn with them. It sends them a message that learning is for life.”
Gemma Williams started out as a learner with Springboard after moving to Pembrokeshire. “When I first joined Springboard, I didn’t know anyone. I would drop my child off at school and not speak to anyone, it was lonely. Springboard helped me find my people and feel part of my community. Being present at the school also helped me to feel involved and eased the transition to a new school for my children, especially my eldest who suffers with anxiety. Learning with Springboard was a huge confidence boost, they helped me with my CV after a decade out of work, and eventually encouraged me to apply for the job I have today. I’m so grateful for the opportunities I’ve had, it honestly has been lifechanging.”