A London creative organisation leads in the Europe-wide push for qualifications for leaders of informal learning…

New qualifications to be launched on 5 September 2015 at the TAKING PART free arts festival at the Bernie Grant Centre.



At a time when the value of the arts is again being questioned, one London-based arts organisation has been working to increase the status of the sector’s workforce as leaders in informal learning.

Manoj Ambasna, head of London-based Collage Arts, explains: “I lead an organization that has 30 years experience of using arts and creativity to grow economies, tackle social exclusion, increase confidence and skills and build bridges across and between communities and much more. This has all happened outside of the formal, college-based education system. ”

In 2012, the European Commission highlighted the need to validate the skills of people engaged in non-formal and informal learning. It has been estimated that around 70% of the population in Europe do not have formal qualifications that reflect their current skills and expertise in all sectors despite having participated in work-based and community-supported learning.

Collage Arts responded to this challenge and recruited 13 European partners to work with them to create new qualifications recognizing the contribution made by those sharing their knowledge and skills in a range of non-formal and informal settings.

Manoj continues: “ As I spoke to colleagues across Europe it became clear that we all faced similar problems.  We all had a highly skilled workforce that could use the arts to create a wide range of benefits to individuals, groups and society at large. But because we worked outside the mainstream, and used approaches that were different from formal education, the sector was marginalized.  One colleague told me of an arts development team in the Netherlands that was merged into a college and then the whole staff team was sacked because the college couldn’t understand or validate the skills in the workforce they inherited.  This story galvanised us into action.  So, we set up a collaborative process to get a Europe-wide qualification.”

After four years what has emerged is a qualification that is based on the validation of prior experiential learning – basically prior experience. It is a qualification for anyone working outside of formal education – so this is likely to be a workplace or community setting.

Dr Denise Stanley, who facilitated the process of codifying the qualifications, said: “This has been a very rewarding experience which involved leading arts organizations from across Europe working together.  Our first task was to understand the tacit knowledge and practice that underpins how creative people share their skills. We then had to build this into a robust structure that could be widely shared. We also worked with VIA University College in Aarhus, Denmark and other academics to ensure that the qualification we produced was coherent and rigorous.

The Cultural Learning qualification looks at 3 areas of blended practice: creative and artistic skills, sharing knowledge and skills and developing social potential.

The Creative and Cultural Enterprise Adviser qualification adds creative and cultural entrepreneurship to the mix.

The two qualifications are linked to the national occupational standards in the UK and the European Qualifications Framework. There are 3 levels: a level 3 which is equates to an apprenticeship qualification, level 5 which equates to a foundation degree and a level 7 which is pegged to be equivalent to a masters level qualification.

Scottish Qualifications Authority, the awarding body partners of the Sector Skills Council for Cultural and Creative Skills, will be offering these Professional awards.

Manoj concludes: “The validation of these unique awards is a major step forward for workers in the creative and cultural industries, but the awards can also help to transform learning and the validation of the skills of workplace and community trainers in almost any sector. This has been a great model of European collaboration coming up with workable, sustainable, qualifications that have eluded the participatory arts and creative business adviser sectors in the UK for nearly 40 years.”

Event: 5th September – 12pm to 5pm

Address: Bernie Grant Arts Centre, Town Hall Approach Road, Tottenham, London,  N15 4RX

Website: https://takingpartfestival.eventbrite.co.uk

Email: info@collage-arts.org

Telephone: 020 8829 8962

Transport: Underground – Seven Sisters;  National Rail – Seven Sisters