John Galt, CLD Education Officer reflects on the Big CLD Blether
I’ve been absolutely blown away by the amazing response of the community learning and development (CLD) sector to the Covid-19 crisis. While the lockdown obviously led to the abrupt suspension of most face to face CLD activities, from the start we’ve been hearing examples of how community workers, youth workers, adult educators and family learning workers in both the public and third sectors have continued to support learners and communities with dedication, creativity and kindness. Across Scotland, CLD practitioners have been supporting community initiatives to deliver food, medicine or provide vital social contact to vulnerable families and isolated people; engaging with young people through imaginative digital youth work; adapting learning activities to be accessible online, by phone or through resources to use at home; and helping to extend the reach of school and community hubs for children of key workers and vulnerable families. Many CLD providers are now playing a key role in helping to develop local and national recovery plans.
So I was delighted to help to facilitate The Big CLD Blether – a virtual discussion with over 90 CLD practitioners and managers across Scotland which was jointly hosted by Education Scotland and The CLD Standards Council for Scotland on 28th May. The session was one of a series held throughout May to support practitioners from across the education system. (#ESBigBlether)
One of the challenges in our diverse sector is finding common digital platforms to use. We went for Google Meet for The Big CLD Blether which seemed to work well for most people.
The discussions were based around four themes and participants chose which ones to take part in. We were lucky to have 3 or 4 experienced practitioners in each themed discussion who shared their experiences and addressed questions from other participants. There were a lot of issues raised in each of the four discussions. Notes from the session will be available on iDevelop but here are some of the points raised:
Theme one: Operational challenges for CLD providers
Participants recognised the good work being done to support the changing needs of learners and communities. CLD organisations are also dealing with significant challenges though. Many 3rd sector organisations are facing extreme financial pressures and some staff had been furloughed. In some areas, local authority CLD staff had been redeployed. Many have been realigning what they do to engage learners and communities remotely while trying to address the clear digital inequalities that exist in our communities. The move to digital is a steep learning curve for many and so effective professional learning for staff is key. There is a strong recognition of the need to support the health and wellbeing of learners and staff.
Theme two: Engagement and learning – what’s working well?
Examples of what is working well were threaded through each of the discussion groups. We heard about the wide range of digital platforms being used by CLD providers to engage young people, adult learners and community groups. We heard lots of examples of practitioners being flexible and endeavouring to start where learners are at online and we were reminded of the Digitally Agile CLD principles and the great resources out there, such as those on digital youth work from YouthLink. There were frustrations at the limitations that some organisations placed on using some platforms, although there was a recognition of the increased importance of digital safety. We heard that Youth Awards like Hi-5 and Saltire are being widely used to recognise young people’s volunteering during the crisis and that as lockdown eases, there is an increasing focus on supporting young people through street work.
Theme 3: Supporting the health and wellbeing of CLD participants and staff
CLD practitioners can help participants to address the impacts of staying at home and feelings of grief, worry, stress or loneliness. We heard some of the feedback from the Lockdown Lowdown study which led to discussions on how can we best support the mental wellbeing of young people now and as lockdown continues to ease. Meanwhile feedback from the CLD Standards Council practitioner survey highlighted that many workers were dealing with stress themselves. Effective CPD and peer support are increasingly important priorities for practitioners.
Theme 4: Looking forward – the role of CLD in the recovery phase.
CLD practitioners have important roles to play – in education recovery plans and in wider community renewal. There are many opportunities for CLD to contribute including outdoor learning, blended learning with schools, supporting parents and families, youth awards etc. broad range of services, showcase ourselves. CLD workers will also have key roles to support community groups and organisations to rebuild and help to rebuild partnership working and collaboration to ensure that resources are deployed to best effect. Much of the focus for recovery planning will be at the local level and it is important that CLD partners are involved. There will also be an increasing need for CLD to support wider regional and national collaboration to support ‘building back better’ efforts. Participants were keen to maintain some of the new processes that have been put in place during lockdown.
Feedback about The Big CLD Blether was positive. Participants told us that they enjoyed re-connecting with CLD colleagues and discussing experiences and pieces of work going well.
Both Education Scotland and the CLD Standards Council are keen to keep the discussions going with further CLD ‘blethers’ so please watch this space!