The Scottish Government has issued new Strategic Guidance on Community Learning and Development, the first completely new statement of its approach to this field since ‘Working and Learning Together’ (WALT) in 2004. The Guidance is presented as being ‘for Community Planning Partnerships’, and it is clear that the government expects them to give CLD services and approaches a central role in how they achieve outcomes, and to plan strategically for their delivery. However the guidance also seeks to be clear about the wide range of sectors and organisations who have an active role, and should consider the implications of the Guidance, ranging far beyond those who currently do explicit ‘CLD’ work.
The core of the Guidance, in our reading, is firstly to present a vision of the unifying principles involved in CLD and then to emphasise their crucial significance for the reform of public services and the achievement of national outcomes, particularly through the ‘preventative’ impact of CLD work. The purpose of CLD is defined as
- “empowering people, individually and collectively, to make positive changes in their lives and in their communities, through learning”.
In a discussion at a CDAS Members’ Meeting this week, some felt that an emphasis on learning may not always be appropriate in work that supports social action. Learning it is argued, often comes from participation in social action rather than the opposite. (The fact that the very first paragraph of the guidance places it in the context of ‘reforms to post-16 learning’ is not a helpful contribution to gaining the active consent of all the necessary sectors, but that is probably of fairly short term significance).
However, the Guidance then goes on very clearly to make it clear that creating stronger communities is one of two main purposes of CLD. Though relevant to much of the National Performance Framework, its “specific focus should be:
- improved life chances for people of all ages, through learning, personal development and active citizenship
- stronger, more resilient, supportive, influential and inclusive communities”.
This effectively replaces the threefold division of the priorities or strands of CLD into youth work, adult learning and community capacity building, familiar from WALT. A fuller list of different approaches which can be part of CLD is given later (3.4) and the first in the list is:
- “community development (building the capacity of communities to meet their own needs, engaging with and influencing decision makers)”.
Later again (4.3) comes the statement that:
- “Working with communities to realise and build on their own strengths or assets is at the core of the CLD delivery model.”
The core of the Guidance relates CLD to the ‘four pillars’ of the Government’s approach to public sector reform:
- a decisive shift towards prevention
- greater integration of public services at local level
- enhanced workforce development and effective leadership
- a sharp focus on improving performance … .
Under the heading of ‘prevention’ decision makers are urged “to make full use of CLD’s ability to:
- build an in-depth understanding of people’s needs, strengths and aspirations through sustained dialogue;
- identify issues and solutions at an early stage;
- identify barriers to participation and strategies for overcoming these;
- mobilise and support direct participation in planning and service design; and
- enable community organisations to develop their infrastructure.
Looking at partnerships, no one specific model for the delivery of CLD is laid down, but it is made clear that “each local authority should have a clearly defined framework for planning and delivering CLD, through partnership, as a key element of its reformed public services”.
The existing work of the Standards Council and others on workforce development is endorsed, and a need “to consider further the future of pre-service training” is identified.
In order to improve performance, CPPs “should ensure that CLD providers are part of the planning and reporting process supporting Single Outcome Agreements”, and the government promises to “work with partners to … develop the best unified, flexible framework possible for self-evaluation, performance management and measurement of impact …”
The current document is pitched at a strategic level and acknowledges that a lot of work now has to be done to put an implementation framework in place. This will be developed by Education Scotland and is expected to involve a wide range of partners. In addition, the government will commission Education Scotland “to provide an evaluative report on the impact of the guidance, based on inspection evidence and any other thematic evaluative activity.”
Education Scotland is currently hosting a discussion on the Guidance, with invited contributions from partners, on its ‘Engage for Education’ website. Opportunities for comment and future support materials will be available on the ‘Connect’ site. Twitter discussions can use the tag #cldguidance.