Essential Skills

In 2004 the Essential Skills programme was set up at Tullymore Community Centre and subsequently incorporated into the JET programme.

It was designed to follow a criteria outlined within the Adult Literacy Core Curriculum and the Adult Numeracy Core Curriculum. The Essential Skills programme adopts a student centred approach to learning and is delivered to local people at a local level. This approach has been shown to increase motivation, help instil trust and build on community relations and community involvement.

Upper Andersonstown Community Forum has successfully implemented a community based Essential Skills programme for the past eight years and the Council for the Curriculum Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) quality assure the work of the programme.

Many students have received certificates in one or all of the levels in the programme. Achievements within the programme by way of hard outcomes in regard to qualifications obtained in Essential Skills continue to be met as do the soft outcomes by way of personal development and confidence building measures. A number of students have gone onto further education, training and employment as a result of achieving competency across various levels of Essential Skills qualifications.

Publication of flyers, radio announcements, advertisements in local papers and the Tullymore Newsletter, alongside open day events are used to advertise the programme. The greatest advertisements are perhaps the success stories to date as a result of the programme. The role models we now have within the community who have successfully completed the programme and continue on their journey of lifelong learning will be constant reminders of what can be achieved through community learning

Upper Andersonstown Community Forum has continued to work towards set objectives at a local level in order to target people experiencing multiple disadvantages and to ensure that we raise the skills levels of the community through lifelong learning in literacy and numeracy, alongside other skills areas, creating the right workforce skills for future economic growth. Courses such as a level 2 in Food Hygiene have been embedded into the Essential Skills programme to provide practical skills that will enable people to gain employment.

Peace and reconciliation building is an important part of the essential skills programme. Cross-community historical tours to Dublin and Derry allowed for the sharing of information about periods within Irish history that affected both communities. We believe this is an ideal way to look at areas of history and share our past rather than be divided.

Excellent work in regard to peace and reconciliation continues through the women’s group set up within Tullymore Centre and a planned cross community event is scheduled for September to take place in Armagh. This is only an example of the diversity of work generated within Tullymore and conducted in order to encourage cross community and cross border collaboration for mutual development. The aims of the project are to support women’s groups in the development of their personal community relations skills in order that they feel confident enough to develop their local community initiatives. The programme will develop an understanding of the purpose and value of community development and how this can contribute to positive change within communities.

Upper Andersonstown Community Forum continues to network with various organisations to provide progress routes for all people so as to encourage equality of opportunity. Our work with Cedar Foundation, an organisation which delivers a range of services that enable people with disabilities to get the most out of life, is truly rewarding and crucial in relation to widening access for all and ensuring inclusiveness at local community level.

We continue to network with other organisations, including local job centres, to ensure we address the ever changing demands in relation to the economy. An example of this is when a local man who had set up his own bakery business was threatened with closure unless he obtained a level 2 award in Food Hygiene; this qualification became mandatory due to the introduction of new legislation. Without this qualification he could not proceed; obtaining it meant he was able to provide work for himself, his family and others within the community. The gentleman achieved the qualification and continues successfully in business.

A total of fourteen students availed of the Level 2 Food Hygiene certificate and secured work in local food outlets and hotels. By contextualising learning in this way students have the opportunity to acquire a functional literacy within their work setting.

The Forum is delighted to work with Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast Metropolitan College and the University of Ulster Jordanstown in order to provide Essential Skills placements both in numeracy and literacy teaching. A total of ten students have availed of this opportunity and some are now employed within the programme as freelance tutors and  others have gone on to facilitate learning within the prison service, local training organisations and colleges.

Recent collaboration was in a project with the Upper Springfield Development Trust Arts Unit titled the Dreamscapes art project. The project’s aim was to explore creative, aspirational responses to our rapidly changing urban environment through innovative approaches to participative arts. The project provided a creative outlet through art workshops for people to reflect on changes in the environment and collectively express themselves through different forms of visual art. The adult students who participated in the project had their work displayed at a temporary public art showcase in the Falls Park as part of Feile an Phobail’s Feile an Earraigh. The selection of work illustrated well-known local landmarks in west Belfast. The paintings were put together as a collaborative collage which created the final artwork which was displayed on a 4ft x 16ft banner. The work from this project is now proudly displayed within Tullymore Community Centre for all to see.