Adult education – Plymouth City Council
Plymouth City Council’s Adult and Community Learning Service (PACLS) delivered a wide range of accredited (apprenticeships, 16-18 learning) and non-accredited (family learning, CPD) learning programmes to young people and adults from the age of 14 through to 90. PACLS encourages learners to develop new skills and gain qualifications and provides opportunities for students to progress into employment, gain further qualifications and access voluntary and career opportunities.
The uncertainty of future funding in the adult education sector, together with the evolving preferences of learners meant doing nothing was not an option. This prompted PACLS to approach Mutual Ventures for help. PACLS wanted help to conduct a feasibility study to assess whether it would be possible to ‘spin out’ from Plymouth City Council and deliver services through a different model, enabling the service to expand its range of learning opportunities, access external funding and target community learning to the most vulnerable in the city.
Following on from the feasibility study, a business plan was developed that demonstrated the viability and added value of establishing the service as a community joint venture with two existing local charities who shared priorities relating to the promotion of community learning. The business plan was accepted by Plymouth City Council in November 2014, and the joint venture was launched as On Course South West in April 2015.
Mark Bandalli, Mutual Ventures Senior Consultant: “This project represented a really interesting opportunity for a service experiencing significant funding pressures. The staff team needed support to assess the feasibility of a range of alternative delivery models with staff and community ownership being a key requirement. We developed a business plan and transition plan outlining the steps to develop the Community Interest Company that would house the new venture. The new organisation is now live and it was a real pleasure to support this group of staff to take control of their own destiny.”
Tracy Hewett, Principal Adult Education Officer, PACLS: “The support provided by Mutual Ventures was exactly what we needed. The team were extremely approachable and happy to spend time explaining what was required, why it was required and how we could get there. The workshop sessions allowed a wide range of staff and learners to feel able to make contributions to the plans and the future of the organisation. Because Mutual Ventures were also working with other adult education establishments they were quick to grasp the terminology, funding and other constraints we currently work within. I am more than happy to recommend Mutual Ventures – professional yet accessible!”