In the year 1900 a 15-year old Lithuanian named Meshe David Osinsky travelled to England alone, to escape persecution in his home country. By his death in 1952 he had become Sir Montague Burton – employing thousands of people as founder of Burton Menswear. He didn’t speak any English when he arrived, but he came to Leeds to escape a bad situation and look for a better opportunity at life. It is fitting then, that the beautifully-preserved building that used to be his factory on Hudson Road in Harehills now houses Learning Partnerships – a charity committed to helping people improve their lives and gain opportunities through accessing education, employment, training and volunteering.
Learning Partnerships provide a wide range of training programmes and opportunities such as ESOL, Stronger Families programme, NHS Partnership and Employment Skills. Much of their work is with people who are unemployed, refugees & ESOL, people on low income and other marginalised groups, this aligns completely with the work of 100% Digital Leeds and our “Furthest First” philosophy of bringing basic digital skills to those who need it most.
In late 2018 Learning Partnerships met with Leeds Libraries’ Digital Inclusion Coordinators to discuss how they could improve their service through embedding digital into more of what they were doing, and they borrowed fifteen 4G-enabled iPads from 100% Digital Leeds’ award-winning tablet lending scheme. A year on we’ve spoken to some of their staff to hear about the impact it’s been having within their organisation and the wider community:
“Learning Partnerships’ classes can be 121 or in groups of around 10-12 people. Over the last year since borrowing the iPads we have run over 50 courses in which we’ve used the tablets and supported over 500 people to get online.
Before we had the tablets from 100% Digital Leeds we had challenges with connectivity and delivering the digital skills support that we wanted to provide. The iPads have opened up a lot of doors for us and enabled us to deliver training in better ways and improve what we are able to do.
When we first borrowed the tablets it took us a little while to get going, but now they are integral to our service and part of every class, they make many of our activities so much easier.
Having the tablets has helped solve a lot of problems for our service users – many of them don’t have smartphones or can’t afford data so it is essential that they have somewhere they can come to get online. There is a perception that only older people aren’t online but we see people of all ages, many of whom have very limited or no internet skills and may have never used a tablet before.” – Cath, Senior Executive
“I teach various courses such as Employability, ESOL, Maths & English in small groups or one-to-one, my learners are mainly parents, unemployed people or those who’ve missed school.
A lot of my learners weren’t confident with digital to begin with but now the iPads have become crucial, we use them all the time. In my ESOL classes in particular they are useful as the learners need visuals when English isn’t their first language. We use Google Translate a lot and assessments are much easier as the learners can take photos of their work and upload evidence using the iPads.
Thanks to having the equipment I’ve also been able to teach a course on Basic Digital Skills where we covered things like using search engines, spell check, uploading photos, creating documents and organising files.
Some may be surprised by this but very few of our customers have smartphones, and even those who do often rely on free Wi-Fi and don’t have data. Without the data they are not learning so having access to 4G through this scheme has helped with financial problems for these people.
Many of our learners have literacy issues, we see a lot of people who are good verbally but may have learning difficulties or have missed chunks of their education. The iPads have become so integral to them that most now ask for them instead of dictionaries.
One of our service-users really struggles with spelling and reading so she uses the text-to-speech feature for understanding, and speech-to-text which allows her to write, she feels that this has made the world accessible to her in a way that it never was before.
It’s also been invaluable to the parents we work with because their children have technology at school and some of the parents felt they were left behind. Now they’ve built their confidence by coming here and learning, they can understand their child’s world better and use them together for homework or games. – Louise, Employability & ESOL Tutor
Learning Partnerships run an intensive 5-day “Steps to Work” course from the Jobcentre for people who have been out of work for an extended period. There are courses at the Jobcentres in Pudsey, Eastgate, Seacroft and Southern House. Since borrowing 15 tablets from 100% Digital Leeds they have run 10 of these courses:
“ICT access can be very oversubscribed in the Jobcentre, so the iPads have been a godsend. The 4G allows us to continue working even if the Wi-Fi isn’t working. Different buildings have their own security passwords and processes to log onto their equipment which can be complicated but by having our own portable equipment we can bypass this.
Having access to the tablets has been great for building the confidence of our learners. Sometimes Jobcentres may only have four computers and several people crowding round each unit, which is not ideal for learning. Now that we’ve got the tablets each person can have their own access to practice and learn at their own pace. They can fill out their Universal Credit journals without having to wait for their work coach or fill out online job applications. This has opened up more opportunities for those involved and allows them to be much more efficient with their time” – Louise
The digital world can be a daunting prospect for people with limited English skills and this is something that Learning Partnerships and 100% Digital Leeds are working to improve in Leeds. Learning Partnerships run a range of ESOL classes for different levels and have embedded a digital element into all of their classes:
“For the people we see it is difficult enough to learn a whole new language, then with digital thrown in it becomes a massive mountain to climb. These iPads take a lot of the stress away and make English and digital skills a lot more accessible.
We’ve found that since introducing digital into our classes our learners have become more responsible for their own development. It makes research so much easier, people are able to use Youtube or Google to find their own answers. We like the students to be able to explore and have fun with the tablets as well as just doing homework and many of them come in to use them outside of class hours.
We use many different elements of digital in our classes for example apps and websites like Kahoot for games, or Quizlet and Socrative for quizzes. Lots of our learners have never used a touchscreen device before and these are great tools for a soft entry to using modern technology. We then go on to develop their skills in things like sending and creating emails with attachments, making videos or using messaging applications.
Before we had this technology we would only have had dictionaries in book form. The online versions have been much better for our ESOL students as they are able to click on the speaker icon next to a word and hear how it should be pronounced.
The tablets have also helped us fulfil our obligations as an organisation more effectively – Ofsted have a requirement that each session uses an element of ICT and previously if the computer room was in use then we would have to use a single laptop with a projector. Now we can bring in the iPads and work from any room with each attendee able to have a personalised learning experience.” – Aga, Leader for ESOL
Lincoln Green has been identified by the UK government in a qualitative study of deprived areas in English local councils as being in the 1% most deprived areas of the UK. For this reason the neighbourhood and its surrounding areas are a high priority for the government, Leeds City Council, Learning Partnerships and 100% Digital Leeds.
Learning Partnerships have been running a partnership project with Leeds City Council and Leeds Hospital NHS trust to help local people secure meaningful employment at St James’ Hospital. The project is targeted at people from the Lincoln Green, Burmantofts and Richmond Hill neighbourhoods and has been a great success:
“Many of the local residents have barriers to overcome that can make it difficult for them to find work such as social and housing issues, many are refugees some of whom have been trafficked, and many are long-term unemployed.
Part of the interview process to get into the NHS is an ICT assessment where the candidate has to navigate websites such as HSE and food.gov and perform tasks like finding sections or links within 15 minutes. This can be a mammoth task for somebody with limited digital skills so it has been crucial that the candidates can practice with us using Leeds Libraries’ tablets.
Of the 2 groups that completed the 8 week programme, a hugely impressive 19 of them secured jobs. This was an incredible result and with a starting salary of £17,000 these jobs will make a massive difference to the lives of the successful candidates and their families.
Some of the jobs such as the housekeeping and portering roles involve using iPads as part of the day-to-day work for keeping stock or clocking in and out, so it’s great that they already have the experience from working with us.” – Louise
“We’ve had excellent feedback from our learners and good numbers for attendance and retention on our courses as well as great feedback from our observations. Going forward we’re going to do more on feedback from our learners, especially using the iPads.
We’re always developing our courses and going forward we’d like to carry on our gradual shift to using more digital. We’re looking at moving all our registers and attendance records online and gradually introducing more. We’d like to introduce Google Classroom to work towards making our assignments and classes paperless and integrate further digital skills for our learners.
We’d also like to use the evidence that we’ve gathered to secure funding to buy our own tablets and upgrade our ICT now that we’ve proven it works and that the demand is there. The benefits of getting online are there for all to see throughout our organisation, our learners and the local area.
Being involved with 100% Digital Leeds has been a fantastic step for Learning Partnerships. It’s helped us immensely in diversifying our offer and bringing digital skills to local residents who have not previously had many opportunities to get online. In turn it is helping them to live healthier lives and get into employment or training, making them happier and more fulfilled. It has also helped our organisation and many of our tutors to flourish, giving us more options on how we deliver learning.
We’re excited to keep breaking down barriers for our learners and to see what the future brings.” – Cath