The Isle of Wight Council has secured £66,000 to support the delivery of innovative adult and community learning initiatives across the Island.

The funding will be put to use to develop a network of 100 community learning champions who will identify local learning needs and help learning providers to meet these needs. The champions will also attend adult learning fairs to highlight both formal and informal learning opportunities on the Isle of Wight.

Funds will also be used to support a number of Island projects including The Footprint Trust’s
Adopt-A-Garden scheme which hopes to expand through volunteers, Age Concern’s project to support the economic wellbeing of the older population and a project being run by the Library Service and the Mental Health Outreach Team to promote reading groups for health improvement.

The council’s adult and community learning team will also establish conversation classes in Island communities for residents whose first language is not English and co-ordinate a network of digital champions to promote and train people in the use of internet services.

Cllr Dawn Cousins, Isle of Wight Council Cabinet Member with responsibility for education, said: “We are delighted to have secured this funding which will help us to expand learning opportunities into the wider community through a variety of schemes. As well as developing learning opportunities delivered by the council, this is about empowering organisations to develop their own learning schemes to suit the needs of their community.”

The council was one of more than 2,400 organisations to apply for a share of £2.4m from the Skills Funding Agency as part of the new Adult and Community Learning Fund managed by the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE).

Geoff Russell, Chief Executive of the Skills Funding Agency, said: “Each project that has secured funding from the Adult and Community Learning Fund will make a tremendous difference to the lives of individuals and to the communities they are part of. Skills and lifelong learning should be at the heart of every community and the Government is committed to making that happen with its vision for the Big Society.”

Carol Taylor, Deputy Chief Executive of NIACE, said: “NIACE is proud to have the role in supporting the Skills Funding Agency in managing the Adult and Community Learning Fund. The response to this bid has been staggering – we received over 2,400 bids. Deciding which of the projects should receive funding has been incredibly tough, however this means that the very best projects will be starting work soon and transforming the lives of local people and local communities.”