KWMC meets The Park

Written by Roz on 31 Oct, 06
Focus on city challenges World-class connectivity

Dialogue 3: Roz Hall of Knowle West Media Centre (KWMC) meets Louise Elliott, Clive Harry and Emma Hinton, The Park: 9 October 2006

I travelled to The Park to meet with Louise Elliott, Emma Hinton and Clive Harry. Clive told me that he is manager of The Park as a whole, and that Emma and Louise manage all the education activities for 11 to 19 year olds. Clive explained that he works to ensure that the different elements of work at The Park come together coherently to contribute to the regeneration process. The Park has therefore been running a substantial programme with young people since it began in 2000. He went on to explain that young people’s achievement is a high priority in the local community.

Emma and Louise explained that schools pay for places at The Park for young people who have been excluded from mainstream education. Bristol City College fund the post 16 work as The Park is a City of Bristol post 16 centre. Emma and Louise also manage the style of delivery at The Park, and Clive told me that The Park seeks to de-formalise learning wherever possible. Louise specialises in representing The Park regarding its curriculum and curriculum development. Emma’s work focuses on key skills and associated elements of delivery, as well as both Emma and Louise having responsibility for pastoral work and student management.

Clive said that there are significant numbers of young people attending The Park who have literacy and numeracy problems. He said that it was important to identify ways of nationally accrediting young people for whom numeracy and literacy were an issue. Therefore, at The Park, Clive, Emma and Louise have been using digital photography to evidence young people’s skills and abilities. They told me that because digital photography is such a staple tool it is also a motivating one which young people can use to package as well as evidence their work. Louise added that digital photography is an excellent tool to provide evidence of what young people are doing. Emma said that it also offers excellent outcomes in terms of being able to represent what goes on at The Park in other contexts such as at conferences. Furthermore, digital photography and video evidence can be used in moderation processes with the relevant awarding body.

Clive then talked about mobile phone technology. He said that they haven’t yet harnessed, but are aware of, the potential of the use of mobile phones. He said that it is tricky but not impossible to harness the materials that can be gathered through mobile phones.

They told me that there are lots of computers at The Park and that the rationale for this is to get young people close to computers to familiarise them with the technology. Clive said that he thinks they still have some way to go regarding the use of sophisticated software.

Emma said that digital technology also generates useful promotional materials and told me about a CD that they have produced which is sent to schools so that staff can print off relevant parts of the information as and when it is relevant to a young persons needs.

Clive then told me about The Park’s website and how it had been reworked to ensure that it was simple and accessible. The previous website was quite sophisticated but in order to make it more effective, as a means of communication with the local community, they had to change it. Clive talked about the differences in how people choose to use hard and software and how the first website had been made with specific reference to different areas of The Park’s work, but that although this was useful for professionals it was not necessarily useful for communicating with local people.

Clive, Emma and Louise said that email was invaluable. However, they thought that mobile phones would become similarly invaluable as a means of communicating with students. They said that the work that Sandra, from KWMC, has done using mobile phones to collect opinions at The Park was a great start and that they would like to see this work come to fruition in terms of informing the ways they can use mobile phone technology in an ongoing way. They told me a bit more about Sandra’s work. They said that she has done a lot of work regarding the shape of democratic processes using mobile phones as part of the process of coordinating the student council. They agreed that this was a great way of getting student input and feedback.

Clive said that the young people who attend The Park are almost inevitably detached from their peers. One of the ways that this has been addressed is through a LSC funded radio station that was based at The Park on the basis that it would be a useful study support system. It was though unfortunately funded through a pot of money that ran out so the project couldn’t be developed further. The radio station had proved useful as a platform through which young people could share their learning experiences with other young people both in and outside of The Park.

They also told me that although they thought access to the internet was important as a study tool, many students were more inclined to use the internet to visit chat rooms. They said however, that given the lack of alternative study support facilities available to students at The Park, any e-mechanisms for study support were really important. They told me that they had hoped the radio project would be a good way of achieving a study support system, so it was unfortunate that the hardware had now been moved.

They also told me about Knowle West Web and how they thought there was more potential for this project in terms of its wider role across The Park and the local community. They said that one issue for Knowle West Web in this respect was that the network itself could not transmit to The Park itself, but just the wider community. However, they said that it works well as a learning tool for those who can access it outside of the park and who do use it.

Clive then mentioned the community information displays that the fire service have installed on plasma screens in The Park and other local venues such as Filwood library. He said that it is a great idea but there is an issue in that it is really expensive and complicated to get anything new on it. He said that there is lots of information from the police and fire service on these screens but not much else. He said that he thought these screens would be a fantastic vehicle if they were used for the community to communicate with itself.

Clive also said that there was a need to use, and identify more platforms like the plasma screens, to signpost, particularly for young people. He talked about the idea of having a database of opportunities for young people in Knowle West. He said that there had been some work done by the achievement group at neighbourhood renewal to this end and that they had looked at a a scheme in Birmingham where volunteers worked on phone lines and had access to a database of information to give to people who phoned. He said that this had worked well and that there had been some funding from the LEA there to set it up. He added that the scheme in Birmingham had also involved a way of tracking young people who had got information from the phone line database to evidence what young people had accessed as an outcome. However, he said that such a process was complicated for legal reasons to do with holding information about young people so that he thought the way forwards for Knowle West was to go back to the simple idea of there being a database of opportunities. He suggested I speak to Mandy Shute about such signposting plans. He also told us that the process was further complicated because there are so many different agencies in Knowle West working with young people.

Clive said that there were many opportunities in Bristol for young people and it was important to ensure that they were accessible for young people in Knowle West. For example The Park entered into a relationship with ITV drama school. They ran sessions at The park on Saturdays and were effective at getting young people parts in TV programmes as well as involving young people in learning about the processes of making TV.

Louise then talked about a new package that has been put on the computers at The Park by someone at Connexions, which is about career options, personal effectiveness and planning / writing cvs. One such package is called Plan-It, but now they have a new easier version of such a package. She told me that all schools have been provided with it through an LSC initiative an that it is a shared learning resource.

They also told me that sometimes there were issues with professional standard tools, such as the recording studio, because it is so good, and it is the industry standard, which means that not many people know how to use it. There is a lack of professionals working in the area who can show others how to use such equipment so consequently such equipment isn’t always made best use of. They also said that they had PC’s with digital imaging software through UK Online, but that similarly there had only been some courses on web design and things like that, and not many activities using such software in sustained ways with young people. One way in which this will be addressed is through partnership with Bristol City College, whereby The Park will be able to access a facility of 12 Macintosh computers as well as expertise in using that sort of technology for learning.

Clive talked about the failure of the wireless work and how The park and Knowle west Web were looking at ways of using the power cables to achieve internet access. He suggested I speak to Chris Pickering about this.

Clive also told me that there is a small UK online centre at the park which they are hoping will expand. It is run in conjunction with Southmead development Trust, which is a good partnership. The problem is not getting such equipment or funding for it, but in getting the take up for it. He said that what they really need is more development workers, with the relevant expertise, to make such projects higher profile and to engage local people in the opportunities that such equipment might present. He said that anything that looks formal tends to be no-go as people just associate it with school and so they aren’t interested. A large number of people come through and use The Park because it isn’t formal. He said that using mobile phones to communicate was one of the key things for future development, especially as it represents something of the informal nature of ‘the grapevine’, and it is ‘the grapevine’ that works as a communication tool here, rather than any more formal communication devices.

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