In this blog, we take a closer look at the themes that were explored during our Autumn Proaction Cafe (27/9/17 at LCB Depot, Leicester). Under these descriptions you can find details of the relevant hosts that held the idea generation conversations about these topics; do make contact with them to share your own thoughts, ideas and how you might be able to help.
Education and Community
The education system has undergone various changes in the recent past - from the introduction of Academies, to the rise of student fees, to national qualifications, through to new grading systems and Standards being implemented - and these changes are conducted whilst under the eye of inspectors and their reports, scrutinising the quality of children and young people’s education at all levels. Within Leicester, especially at secondary and further education (16-18) level, this scrutiny has resulted in that watchful eye becoming a microscope, with poor results for learners and under-achievement being an issue for many of the city’s institutions. Not long after Leicester City won the Premier League in May 2016, Sir Michael Wilshaw, Ofsted’s Chief Inspector, commented that ‘Leicester, meanwhile, has enjoyed great sporting success and is home to the new champions of English football. Yet when it comes to education, its ambitions and achievements are decidedly second division.’
The role that ‘community’ can play in education, and the quality of the experience and the improvements of outcomes for an institution’s students, can be significant. Below are some links to some interesting articles and further reading around the subject:
- ‘Why community involvement in schools is important’: https://www.pridesurveys.com/index.php/blog/community-involvement-in-schools/
- ‘Parents and community can play a key roles in school success’: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2013/01/10/16involvement.h32.html
- ‘Schools, communities and social capital’: http://dera.ioe.ac.uk/2981/1/download%3Fid%3D147205%26filename%3Dschools-communities-social-capital-full-report.pdf
During the conversation at the Autumn Proaction Cafe, several points were raised, especially from those who have recently experienced education within the city. There were too many to mention all of them, however the following felt particularly pertinent:
- There are already many ‘community-led’ initiatives to become more involved in local education around the city
- The opportunities for students to become more invested in local community and economy felt stifled and contrived (from a student perspective) and were positioned as ‘enhancements’ rather than integral and fundamental parts of their learning and development
- These opportunities were often situated in a community that they already knew and were ultimately familiar with; this led to a feeling that an ‘echo chamber’ had been created in terms of experience and a barrier had been placed in accessing the city’s diversity.
Ideas touched on during the conversation included how we might create a greater partnership across communities and educational establishments so more cross-curricular and employability learning could take place, and establishing teams of young people that could shape the needs of support and opportunities that will help them to progress both in school/college and outside of it to give them the tools needed to be better prepared for work and life.
If you would like to contribute to these early conversations and idea generation then do contact Carl at:
Perceptions of Prison, and the need for a shift
The very perceptions that the community (and society-at-large) have about prisons, and specifically about offenders, can play a role in the high reoffending rate and the ability for someone released from prison to rehabilitate fully. It can create genuine, real barriers in terms of accessing work, housing, and a range of support services, as well as impact on the feeling of the self-worth and belonging of these men and women wishing to make a fresh start for themselves and their families. This can lead to an ongoing punishment well beyond their sentence being completed.
Various open forums and research discussions have been held around this topic:
- ‘Prisoners and public perception’: http://www.safeground.org.uk/prisoners-and-public-perception-thoughts-after-delivering-desistance/
There have also been different papers produced on how communities respond to prisoners on their release and the support that they provide, such as the below:
- ‘Community residents’ perceptions of prisoner re-entry in selected Cleveland neighbourhoods’: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.507.372&rep=rep1&type=pdf
HMP Leicester is a difficult place; an outdated building with a small capacity, few spaces and resources, and had received a poor report in November 2015 following an unannounced visit from the Chief Inspector of Prisons. With a disproportionately high percentage of its prisoners being from the local area (Leicester city and county) and often being on short sentences, the staff see a significant turnover of locally-based residents returning to the prison as repeat offenders.
Since its report, HMP Leicester has made great strides to engage more effectively with the wider Leicester community, realising that they can play a significant role in reducing recidivism, not only through their community institutions or any structured offer or programme, but through their day-to-day individual, independent interactions with the prison and prisoners.
During the Proaction Cafe, Ralph (Deputy Governor at HMP Leicester) began to explore how the benefit case of greater community awareness in how they can help in reducing reoffending could be better explained and promoted. If you have any further ideas or want to understand more about this topic, contact Ralph directly:
If you would like to host a table at a future Proaction Cafe to get people’s help in generating new ideas for a social issue or community project you have then get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org