RISE Learning Zone is a not-for-profit community interest company (CIC) formed by its founder member employees in 2015, and was awarded Independent School status in 2016.
A new provision, with history
When, in the summer term of 2015, the charity that operated The Zone Youth Project announced the closure of its alternative education programme, the staff and learners affected by the decision came together with a resolve to carry on. With encouragement from schools and other key supporters in the city, and a hectic summer setting up, the provision was reinstated in September 2015 as a newly-independent employee-owned organisation. We are proud to have saved the jobs of every member of staff and the places of every learner who faced being moved to other provisions.
Only five weeks after the old provision closed, RISE opened its doors again for the start of the new Autumn term 2015, without apparently missing a beat. Thanks to our hosts, Base 51 and NGY MyPlace, and their tremendous support for our vision, we were able to continue the programme – renewed, re-envisioned, and independent – to provide education and qualifications to some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged young people in Nottingham. While we will always remain a small and nurturing provision, we have ambitious plans: we are just at the beginning of a journey.
Our team, today
The staff and volunteer team that had made The Zone alternative education programme such a valuable resource for city schools and agencies over the last twenty years have come together to form RISE: bringing with them the skills and passion; and adding a commitment to an aspirational future for our learning constituency. Four full-time staff members, four part-time, and five exceptional volunteers are the founder members, working together to forge an ethos of mutual learning and support. We bring expertise in a range of subject areas including functional skills, creative subjects, and life skills; we will continue the commitment to wraparound support that has worked so successfully for families that have young people coming to our provision; and we are building a foundation for a new and sustainable alternative education.
Central to that sustainability, we know, is our amazing team. We are ambitious for our learners, and for ourselves – everyone is committed to progression through learning and through development of their own skills and careers. We’ve had a running start – six former employees are now directors! This year two of our volunteers have stepped up into paid work; one of our support workers is now tutoring; and three of our volunteers will take a place on the Advisory Board. Our commitment to professional development has started, but we know there is so much more still to be done…
Two founding principles are at the core of our development plans: first, that our constituency – that is to say, staff, volunteers, young people, their families and colleagues from other services – should be a community of learners, where everyone is learning; and second, that our constituency should have ownership of the learning. How do we propose to achieve this?
A Community of Learners: Breaking down barriers associated with authority, in particular those linked to the teacher-pupil power relationship, can enhance young people’s commitment to their own learning – seeing ‘teachers’ as ‘lead-learners’, sharing the learning journey in a more mutual way. We aim to reach a point where, through training and development, staff take on their own studies, and can share their own experiences as ‘pupils’. Developing programmes of CPD for professionals, and extending learning for families including adult education for parents, form part of the strategy for exemplifying and providing life-long learning.
Ownership of Learning: We believe we may be offering something quite unique within our constitution – a co-operative structure that will allow not only staff and volunteers to mutually own the organisation through membership, but an extension of that membership to learners and their families. Schools often talk of engendering pride and respect in their institutions from pupils, and it is common for youth organisations to form steering groups from their client base of young people, but at RISE we are committed to offering genuine ownership through a beneficial membership scheme – giving learners a real stake in their education.
Do you want to be a part of the RISE vision? We are always keen to meet inspirational people – find out more information here.