Reporter 401, 6 May 1997


Students become teachers to revive inner city Leeds

Leeds is now the UK's second financial and legal centre. But as the city's wealth and reputation has grown, so has the gap between its prosperous and disadvantaged communities. Groups throughout the city – including students at the University of Leeds – are fighting to close the divide.

Eighty students from the University are taking their skills into the inner city and teaching in community-based projects, funded by some of the £53m pumped into Leeds by the Government's regeneration programme. More students are working on schemes to improve the quality of life in these areas. The Department for Education and Employment and Community Service Volunteers have been so impressed by student contributions to reviving deprived areas it is to use their work as an example of good practice for student-community learning partnerships.

Students are teaching in schools and colleges in disadvantaged communities as part of the University's 'Schools, Business and the Community' project which covers a range of activities. The second round of Government funding is specifically targeting the East Bank area of Leeds and 14 students are tutoring in this area.

Two students are involved in the APPLE project – A Partnership of People and Local Enterprise – based at Ebor Gardens primary school in the East Bank.

Mark White, a third year Arabic Studies student, is teaching introductory Spanish to adults once a week at the school. Seven people are attending the lessons, but not all of them are beginners. Viv Denton, 62, learnt Spanish nearly fifty years ago and is taking advantage of the tutoring to brush up on his language. For Colin Ramsden, 32, it is his first time in a classroom since leaving school and he thinks the idea is "great."

While the adults have been grappling with grammar, children are taking advantage of their parents being out of the way to follow dance lessons.

Vanessa Trotter, a first year French and Portuguese student, has been involved in after-school clubs at home, and has just started a new group at Ebor Gardens. Rather than trying to teach a formal technique such as ballet, "they choose what they want to do, so it's dancing to pop music."

Sue Denton and Bernadette Ramsden, volunteers with APPLE, said "the kids really enjoyed the dance class and will definitely be back next week."

Trudie Canavan, co-ordinator of the APPLE project, says the students are a great help, and not just because they have a particular skill to broaden the range of activities on offer. If she worked in partnership with a local college to offer Spanish classes a minimum of twelve students would have to enrol. "This is often not possible on an estate such as Ebor Gardens but as we are not restricted by a minimum number of students we are able to run the class which is great as it increases choice." She also says that at only 50p for each session the dance classes are a bargain. "Many of the local people are on low incomes or not in paid work so the cost of activities is very important."

Another initiative by the City and Regional Office targets both business and community sectors wanting the help of a student to carry out a project. These projects often form the basis of a dissertation or other assessed work.

Kate Bland, a Sociology and Social Policy student, is working with Sanctuary Housing Association on a project to transform a derelict grade 2 listed church building in the heart of the East Bank into a centre for young people.

The 'Foyer Project' will provide temporary and permanent accommodation and guidance in life skills. Kate will be researching the needs and desires of young people likely to use the service and comparing the relative success of similar projects. It will form the basis of her undergraduate dissertation.

Project manager Christine Walk said the Foyer would act rather like a university. "It will provide for the educational, social and domestic needs of its inhabitants rather like a university campus provides for its students. Kate will be in tune with the type of environment we wish to create".

Leeds City Council established the Leeds Initiative Regeneration Board as an independent body to bid to the Government's urban regeneration programme and is made up of a number of local partners, including the University of Leeds, Leeds TEC and Voluntary Action Leeds. The City and Regional Office, which is overseeing the University's involvement, was established in 1995 to strengthen links with the area and ensure the University makes a full contribution to its host community.

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