Education Scotland report on Community Learning and Development
Senior leaders at Highland Council have been praised in a new report for understanding and valuing a Community Learning and Development (CLD) approach in meeting Highland Outcome Improvement Plan priorities.
In a recent HMI report on Continuing Engagement of Community Learning and Development in The Highland Council by Education Scotland inspectors it was reported that leaders at all levels have “a shared commitment to strengthening the nine Community Partnerships.”
The report also recognised that community planning partners have identified a range of priority actions they need to take to build the role, effectiveness and sustainability of community planning arrangements across Highland.
It also praised learning and development in the community, saying: “across Highland highly effective and ambitious community organisations continue to enhance community life by delivering a wide range of services.”
The report noted the work of the Dingwall Fire Brigade’s Club, Cromarty Community Trust and High Life Highland’s detached youth work project. The Dingwall employability programme is another service supporting young people to become ready for work and gain appropriate levels of accreditation.
Highland Council recognises the importance of these reports which are critical in terms of insuring continuous development of service and highlighting areas for improvement.
The report also recommended a need to strengthen the alignment of local provision with strategic and area plans to ensure a clear shared sense of direction.
Inspectors found that many individual youth work programmes, including a few jointly delivered by partners, remain effective and suggested work be done to improve partnership working between youth work providers.
The report highlighted a continuing challenge as to how partners deploy CLD resources, including staff time, to best support progress against shared priorities. It also found a need to review strategic aims for CLD and community empowerment to make sure they are achievable and realistic.
There were many other positives in the report, including praise around the thread between strategic planning and operational delivery, an example of which was, the innovative House of Memories project, which auditors said delivers well against intended outcomes in the Highland Dementia policy. The project supports those caring for people living with dementia across Highland to use a bespoke digital app. This app helps them to feel more confident and equipped to support their family members and clients.
Inspectors also recognised that partners are increasing the opportunities for practitioners to meet, share ideas and learn from each other. The Highland Voluntary Youth Network is building capacity to engage in shared planning and self-evaluation amongst voluntary sector youth organisations.
In terms of areas for improvement, the report pin-pointed a need to clarify how existing and planned partnership structures and networks will provide a clear route-map to inform the provision of CLD. It said: “current structures do not yet enable strategic leaders to best meet their duties in regard to the planning and reporting of CLD provision.”
Auditors were encouraged by examples where partners make effective use of evaluation to assess progress for individual projects. It picked out the Growing2gether programme which supports young people to mentor children, includes a systematic approach to evaluation. This is supporting its roll out to schools across Highland. The report also made recommendations for improvement in this area, saying: “there continues to be a need for partners to better identify, share and use key intelligence to create a collective picture of the impacts of CLD in Highland. They also need to develop clear, realistic and ambitious joint targets for CLD.”
HM Inspector Alona Murray said: “Whilst we are confident that aspects of work in local communities remain of good quality, overall there has been insufficient progress made against the four main areas for improvement in the original report.
“As a result, we will return around 12 months from the publication of this report to monitor progress against these areas.”