The foundations of modern day CLD in Scotland (comprising adult learning, youth work and community development/ capacity building) were laid in the early 20th century, although extra mural programmes of learning and evening classes were available to Scotland’s masses as far back as the early 19th century.

discussion group 2The Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) was established in Scotland just before the First World War and in 1921 the National Council of Labour Colleges took forward the pioneering work of the 19th century in providing the working classes with training for involvement in local and central government.

In 1934 Statutory Regulations for Adult Education empowered education authorities to co-operate with voluntary bodies in securing adult education provision. Following World War II, the Education (Scotland) Act of 1945 developed the concept of informal further education in a way which allowed the education authorities to co-operate with universities and voluntary bodies such as the WEA in providing adult education.

The origins of youth services lie in the voluntary sector with such agencies as the Scouts, Guides, YMCA, and with a particular emphasis upon personal and social development, often with a Christian ethic. From 1945, local authorities became significant providers by way of youth and community services. Smith, in his introduction to youth work provides a detailed description of its beginnings and evolution in Britain since the 19th Century.

The development of New Towns in the 1950’s/60’s and the ‘rediscovery of poverty’ in the 1960’s led to the introduction of community development support. From the 1970’s there has been a significant development of the community sector, i.e., locally run projects and organisations, not necessarily linked to larger voluntary organisations.

This has been closely linked to the development of the Urban Programme and, more recently, the Social Inclusion programmes and the National Lottery, which has funded innovative work with young people at risk and around community capacity building. Barr, in his presentation to the Community Development Alliance Scotland 2005 Conference, reviews in detail the progress of community development (PDF, 36Kb) over the past 40 years.

people listeningThe phrase ‘community education’ came into widespread use at the time of the reorganisation of local government in the mid-1970s and with the publication of Adult Education: the challenge of change (HMSO 1975), generally known as the Alexander Report. It advocated that; “Adult education should be regarded as an aspect of community education and should with the youth and community service, be incorporated into a community education service”.

Alexander did not examine youth or community services in any detail, arguing that it was outwith its remit. Most local authorities however adopted its recommendation and combined their informal adult education services with youth and community work to form Community Education Services, but many voluntary organisations were less convinced that Community Education was an appropriate title for them.

During the late 70’s and through the 80’s community education in Scotland was developing against a political backdrop of the ‘Thatcher years’ which saw government policy questioning, even undermining, the notion of community through its focus on the individual and consumerism. McConnell (2002), in his editorial introduction to The Making of an Empowering Profession, describes in some detail this period in the evolution of community education. He highlights the tension that existed at the time between national and local government in Scotland. The Scottish Office’s continued support for community education was based on its belief in providing learning opportunities that focused on the needs of the individual as a means of accessing opportunity, which in turn provided a route out of poverty.

Local authorities in Scotland however, in particular Strathclyde Regional Council, recognised the structural causes of poverty and deprivation and the role the community educator and the community development worker could make as part of a wider public policy response to tackling poverty and deprivation.

Ian Martin (in McConnell C 2002), writing at the time in response to the Scottish Council for Community Education’s (SCCE)Discussion Paper Number One, reflects the debate with his rejection of the paper’s definition of community education, which saw its role as solely addressing the learning needs of individuals. He argued for a more radical role for community educators based on the writings of authors such as Paulo Friere, that involved working with local people to identify need and agree appropriate responses. This notion of a locally negotiated curriculum and an approach to learning that empowered the learner was clearly at odds with the government’s vision of the role of community education.  It was a challenging time for practitioners, particularly those working for local authorities who were often faced with conflicting expectations from communities, local and national politicians.

Another key impact of the Alexander Report was to set in motion the process which arguably led ultimately to the ‘professionalisation’ of community education. It recommended that a review of training for community educators should take place and this in turn led to the establishment of common core knowledge and skills for the training of practitioners.

The creation of a national body in 1990 to validate and endorse community education training (CeVe) saw the adoption of universally agreed values and principles that guide professional training and practice and underpins the national standards for community learning and development in Scotland today.

The next major development in the field came in 1999 following the publication of the Scottish Executive’s report: Communities: Change through Learning (The Osler Report) (1998). The Scottish Executive approved a radical re-focusing of community education. It would provide community-based learning opportunities for all ages to enable people to improve the quality of their lives, contribute to their own communities and participate in local and national democratic processes.

The new approach required community education workers to develop productive partnerships relating to a wide range of social, economic, health and educational needs of communities.Those active in the provision of community education included the local authorities, the voluntary sector, local adult guidance networks, other education providers and fields such as health and community safety.

Controversially at the time, Osler also recommended that community education should be seen as an approach rather than a discrete professional sector. This was seen by many as a threat to the hard won progress and growing recognition since 1975 of community education as an identifiable profession operating at the heart of public policy.

McConnell argues that it was not the Osler Committee’s intention to undermine the profession with this recommendation.   He believes the very strength of community education lies in its ability to be both, illustrated by the use of its approaches by so many public service professionals.

In June 2002 the Scottish Executive published ‘Community Learning and Development: The Way Forward’, its response to the Community Education Training Review. This announced that the Scottish Executive had agreed to adopt the term community learning and development. There followed new guidance from the Scottish Executive on community learning and development – ‘Working and learning together to build stronger communities’ – in January 2003. The guidance included, for the first time, national priorities for community learning and development as follows:

  • Increasing levels of adult literacy and numeracy, ICT and other learning related to work and life;
  • Increasing levels of educational, personal and social development amongst young people;
  • Increasing the capacity of communities to tackle issues of concern; and
  • Increasing the impact that communities can have upon planning and service delivery decisions.

These national priorities remain the focus for current CLD activity. The important context of partnership working contained in this guidance has been expanded to support the development of community planning partnerships and many of the Scottish Government’s key policies. In November 2008 The Scottish Government and CoSLA issued joint statement  (PDF, 80Kb) that set out a vision for CLD. It supported the continued general direction of CLD and recognised its significant successes, particularly where partnership working had been embedded locally. It recognised the need for the impact of CLD to be increased across Scotland and set out how its outcomes could be more clearly aligned to national and local priority outcomes contained in the Scottish Government Concordat and Single Outcome Agreements.

For the early part of this historical summary of the development of community learning and development we have drawn on information from the National Dossier on Education and Training.