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KCC Learning Well 2016/17

Image of Kent County Council's CLMHP Learning Well and Kent Adult Education logo




Image of birds in flight over the sea and the Kent Adult Education logo

A DfE Community Learning | Mental Health Research site (2015/17) 

Phase 2 - Taking flight

Building on from phase-1, in 2016/17 Kent County Council was one of 19 projects randomly allocated to the intervention 'Group C' of the DfE adult education mental health research. We delivered through Kent Adult Education (KAE) under the name Learning Well.

We recruited 250 people as research volunteers to join general community learning courses. Last year all our learners identified as having mild to moderate mental health problems. This year, part of the challenge was that course participants needed to be a mixed group of learners between those who self-assessed as having mild to moderate mental health problems and those who did not. 

What did we learn?

Reflecting on phase-2 of the research, on this page we aim to share our praxis with colleagues interested in lessons we learned from the experience, and how this has informed and changed our thinking, and our subsequent practice.

Where better to start than watching Patricia's reflections at the start of year 2 in Turning Challenges into Opportunities - A WMHD 2016 Webinar in conversation with the Luton and Medway project leads. Download their slides

Use the links below to find out what we learned from phase-1, or to view our current offer to research volunteers. 

Meeting the challenge

In phase-1, our project partnership closely involved Mind and other mental health support charities. In order to achieve the requirements of Group C, engaging with a mix of people with mild to moderate mental health issues and those without any, we had to develop far wider partnerships.

We continued to work with our local volunteering and voluntary interest organisations and the local residential probation centre as well as local employers, children's centres and school parents' groups. 

Achieving a 50:50 split between learners with and without mild to moderate mental health issues is a potential challenge as it's impossible to find the exact number of people prior to the couse through IAG sessions or to 'police' it at sign-up. However, consultation with KAE managers and partners led us to believe that we could achieve this if we were mindful of which organisations we engaged with. For example, Children's Centre mums groups have been found to have a significant number of members with sysmptoms of mental health problems , especially new mums and pregnant women. In order to address this as a group where learners are in a mixed group of those experiencing mild to moderate mental health issues and those who are not, we were asked to run a massage and relaxation course. We made some interesting findings.

Case Studies

USDAW (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) - We engaged with members via an open day where they were free to sign up to various opportunities offered by Community Learning and Skills. They included basic English and maths and other paid provision by KAE. Learning Well offered BSL (British Sign Language) and Spanish. BSL has proved successful with comments that

"it's not only been enjoyable but also interesting"

It had significant benefit to learners, increasing their confidence in communication. A deaf co-worker also volunteered to support staff and continue practice. Interestingly, learners naturally fell into an approximate 50:50 split between those experiencing symptoms of mental health problems and those who were not.

Age UK Engaging with older learners provided another dimension to our. Age UK asked us to teach a variety of creative skills to give people a greater scope for development. The tutor was amazed at the levels of achievement and bowled over by the group' feedback and comments, illustrated in a visual summary.

We love feedback

Log in to MHFE to post comments or questions below or use 'find someone' on the networking tab on the MHFE home page to send a direct message Patricia Dillon-Russell (PatriciaDR) - our KCC project manager for this research site.

Where to next?