Alternative Education and Community Engagement: Making Education a
Pre published copy
Where do we go from here?
Ornette D Clennon
As a result of our numerous conversations with our community partners, one partner
in particular expressed an interest in organising a pilot project that addressed some
of the educational issues raised in this volume. Dr Esther Oludipe from the
Levenshulme social enterprise, Highway Hope, wanted to explore how she could
improve the educational choices for the young people in her neighbourhood. In
Chapter 1, we explored some of the community themes which seem to be raised
regularly in our conversations; namely a Culture of Low Expectations and Changing
the Ideological landscapes in our Schools and Classrooms. Esther wanted to
investigate how as a community, these issues could be addressed by establishing
grass-roots education enterprises. Dr Oludipe approached us at Manchester
Metropolitan University to help her form the MEaP (Making Education a Priority)
project team, which is a consortium of grass-roots organisations that have joined
forces with the intention of sharing resources across their communities. The
organisations were heavily influenced by Abbott’s (2013a) rallying cry, “I also have a
message for the community and the message is this; that no-one in society is going
to give you anything. You have to come together to take it”.
Since our series of conversations, which underpin the discussions in this volume, the
consortium has been meeting on a weekly basis to discuss how our conversations’
emergent issues around BAME underachievement and a culture of low expectations
affect the educational aspirations of their communities. The MEaP project team were
keen to action Cassie Earl’s pedagogy of Alternative Education as Protest
respective communities but were mindful of the practical and sometimes political
challenges of setting up Free, Co-operative and Studio Schools in their local
This led the community members of the MEaP project team to
explore alternative opportunities where they could take grass-roots and parent-led
control of their young peoples’ education in ways that were not dependent on a
(de)centralised education market. ROTA (2012, p. 11) writes that
There is a lack of transparency around the free schools programme, and in
particular, limited information in the public domain about the degree to which
free schools are benefiting BAME communities, especially those that have
been historically disadvantaged in education.
The MEaP project team’s view of the Free (and other state funded alternative) schools
programmes reflected ROTA’s wariness, as the team has been supporting other
communities from across the UK with their aspirations to set up Free Schools. In its
dialogue with these other communities, the project team witnessed the extreme
challenges that they faced in trying to set up state-funded alternative provisions (Dr
Miah’s Free School in Oldham, notwithstanding). In this chapter, I will briefly outline a
case study description of the structure of the Making Education a Priority (MEaP)
pilot project and its potential scope for social change. As the project has only just
begun, I will be unable to offer an evaluative account at this point but I will attempt
to locate the initiative within the themes that have already been discussed in this
Culture of Low Expectations
Dr Oludipe and some other members of the MEaP project team who run their own
supplementary schools recognised that there was an opportunity for them to
strengthen the provision that they already offered in this sector, rather than to focus
on perceived ‘deficits’ (Dyson, et al, 2010). What has been particularly interesting to
note is the approach that they have taken in regards to Kehinde Andrews’ concepts
around “Official vs. self-help: ideological tensions”
. In his chapter, Kehinde talked
about the tension between those supplementary schools that used qualified teachers
and those who used unqualified teachers. The project team was keen to address this
issue as a priority with Continuing Professional Development training for its
volunteer teachers, as will be discussed later. Kehinde also discussed the role of Black
culture within the supplementary curriculum. Kehinde charted a historical debate
between the Black Church and the more political arm of the Black supplementary
school movement. Kehinde suggested that the historic conservatism of the Black
Church had in the past sat uncomfortably with a more politicised Black
supplementary school movement. What I find intriguing about the MEaP pilot project
is that although it is indeed supported by a Black Church and some of the schools in
the consortium are run from its premises, the Church seems to have a wider social
change agenda aimed at alleviating some of the social inequalities in its
communities. The Church sees education as a large part of its strategy for social
change within the communities it serves and works with Esther’s social enterprise,
Highway Hope, which is a registered charity, as its charitable outreach arm.
Highway Hope Supplementary Schools
The Highway Hope educational scheme was set up to encourage children’s self-
esteem and self-worth, which Highway Hope believes is required to excel in society.
The Highway Hope schools provide opportunities for every child to acquire
knowledge and skills; both social and academic. Esther is keen to emphasise that
they raise their standards of education by only focusing on the core subjects of
Mathematics, English and Science. They also educate their children using
extracurricular activities such as talks and presentations about the dangers of drugs,
alcohol and smoking, as they introduce their children to positive role models -
professional guest speakers who also help with educational counselling. Their
successes have come in the form of their children enjoying increased attainment
levels at their (mainstream) schools. They also work closely with their parents to help
them gain a better understanding of the UK educational system.
Achieve Supplementary School
Another of the schools in the MEaP consortium is called Achieve and is run by Zeinab
Mohamed who is also a member of the Manchester Somali Women’s Forum.
Their supplementary school was originally established to support children from
migrant and refugee-communities in Manchester. Initially, the parents’ aspirations
included the enriching and the preserving of the religious and cultural heritage of
their children. The supplementary school used to provide lessons in religious studies,
cultural heritage and the mother tongue of the children, in order to create better
communication and understanding between children and parents. The school later
discovered that although children were learning and understanding more about their
cultural heritage, the children’s attainment in their mainstream schools still remained
very low. The school found that the children were not getting the help they needed
with their homework from their parents because, as Zeinab explains, many children
were from migrant homes with limited experience of the UK educational system. This
discovery changed their focus from providing lessons in cultural heritage to mainly
supporting children with their learning and education with a view towards enabling
the children to work to their full potential and bridge the attainment gap between
their children and those from the host communities. Zeinab says that it later became
evident that their supplementary school “helped a great number of children who
achieved very good grades in their respective exams”.
Both sets of schools in the consortium represent a desire to move away from
teaching cultural studies and to focus on curriculum attainment. Our community
partners in our conversations in Chapter 3 also expressed an interest in moving in
this direction. In fact, Zeinab has explicitly said that the teaching of cultural heritage
can be done successfully in the Mosques and the Madrasas so it does not need to be
taught in her supplementary school. Esther also mirrors this sentiment, as her
schools do not teach any religious material from its host Church. The schools in the
consortium strongly believe that nurturing higher curriculum attainment is an
effective way of altering a Culture of Low Expectations. However, Kehinde cites this
approach as being ‘conservative’, as he points out that this promotes an
“individualism” that does not challenge the perceived structural inequalities of
mainstream educational provision.
Changing the Ideological landscapes in our Schools and Classrooms
The MEaP project team is acutely aware of the tension between the seemingly
opposed ideas of their schools on one hand providing a challenge to the structural
inequalities of mainstream education whilst on the other hand, enabling their
children to succeed in a mainstream system that is perceived to be failing them. The
team has developed three strategies to balance these contrasting demands. The
strategies have been constructed to change both how the ‘classroom’ and the
‘school’ is perceived by the communities themselves as well as the wider range of
stakeholders in the education sector.
Multi-agency Partnership working
The MEaP project team wanted to model their pilot on the government’s current
Teaching School programme, which they wanted to see if they could apply to the
supplementary school sector in Manchester.
The National College (2013) writes:
Teaching schools are part of the government’s drive to give schools more
freedom and to take increasing responsibility for managing the schools
system. As well as offering training and support for their alliance themselves,
teaching schools will identify and co-ordinate expertise from their alliance,
using the best leaders and teachers to:
–– lead the development of a school-led ITT system, through School Direct
and in some cases by seeking full accreditation as an ITT provider
–– lead peer-to-peer professional and leadership development
–– identify and develop leadership potential
–– provide support for other schools
–– designate and broker specialist leaders of education (SLEs)
–– engage in research and development
The project team’s preliminary research showed that there was no equivalent peer
group mentoring available to Supplementary Schools across the country. However, a
few councils such as Bradford City Council (2013)
did offer support for their
supplementary schools such as helping to foster partnerships between
supplementary schools and the mainstream schools in their area. Haringey Council,
(2013) also offered support by providing resources for setting up supplementary
schools in their borough and they also included a schools’ registering service.
Eventually, the project team did discover that Manchester City Council (2013) was
also working with supplementary schools through its Directorate of Children and
Commissioning (International New Arrivals, Travellers & Supplementary Schools,
INATSS). INATSS provides support by ensuring that supplementary schools are given
training to meet the high standards of professional delivery and safeguarding
necessary for working with children and volunteer supplementary teachers. INATSS
works in partnership with the National Resource Centre for Supplementary Education
(NRCSE) by providing nationally recognised OCN (Open College Network)-accredited
qualifications for safeguarding, teaching and learning, sharing practice and
mentoring, (National Resource Centre for Supplementary School Education, 2013).
The MEaP project team has since entered a partnership with the INATSS team and
NRCSE by completing a Manchester City Council-funded mentoring NRCSE
programme that will enable the team to mentor other supplementary schools in
obtaining their OCN-accredited quality assurance qualifications. The project team
also became aware that the Widening Participation team from the University of
Manchester hosts the Manchester Supplementary Schools Network (MSSN)
Awards jointly with INATSS from Manchester City Council. The Head of Widening
Participation at the University of Manchester expressed her enthusiasm for
partnering with Manchester Metropolitan University in helping to develop this pilot,
as has the Director of the Manchester Supplementary School Network. The project
team also approached the Manchester Museum and the STEMNet team at the
Manchester Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) in order to participate in their
outreach projects. This was stimulated by the British Museum’s Innovation in
Partnerships programme that was established to explore multi-agency working
between supplementary schools, universities and cultural providers (Clennon, 2013).
This form of multi-agency partnership building has been crucial in enabling the
schools in the consortium to expand their range of educational activities. The team’s
relationship with MMU has been central to its success so far because the university
has been able to act as the principal broker for a range of stakeholders across the
education and cultural sectors. In addition to its brokering role, the university has
managed to use its Widening Participation agenda to the advantage of the
consortium. The Widening Participation agenda (WP) in the Higher Education sector
emerged from the need for universities to ensure that they were doing as much as
they could to promote and improve access to their institutions in order to justify
their need to charge for tuition fees (OFFA, 2009). MMU has provided the consortium
with Student Ambassadors
as part of its WP agenda that will help the consortium’s
schools to deliver its core curriculum subjects. The Student Ambassadors will assist in
the curriculum areas of English, Mathematics and Sciences. The consortium’s schools
also wanted to set up a school band, so MMU has provided music Student
Ambassadors to work with the schools. This use of Student Ambassadors has been
instrumental in encouraging an organic partnership with the University of
Manchester, as both universities collaborate on the Manchester Higher initiative to
“provide learners across Greater Manchester with free high-quality higher education
awareness-raising activities” (University of Manchester, 2014). This innovative use of
our students has opened up opportunities for the schools in the consortium to
integrate into their curriculum-delivery, projects such as the Manchester Children’s
Book Festival (MCBF, 2014) used to showcase the consortium’s essay writing
competition, ‘Museum comes to you’ programme (University of Manchester, 2014)
used to enhance the English curriculum delivery and the Rosetta Space Probe (ESA,
2014) and data sonification
project used to bring the schools’ Science curriculum to
life and to combine it with music and their school bands. It is envisaged that the
ideological landscape of the classroom will be transformed by these innovative
extracurricular activities by making learning more accessible and enjoyable for the
The consortium is using these extracurricular initiatives as important enrichment
activities that serve to build social and cultural capital for its schools. The project
team feels that working in partnership with multiple education and cultural
stakeholders allows it to inject its own version of the Classical Liberal education into
its curriculum as discussed in the last chapter and Chapter 4. However, the important
difference to note is that these activities are strongly guided by grass-roots cultural
needs, as illustrated by the consortium’s work with Manchester Museum’s ‘Museum
comes to you’ programme where communities are introduced to the Museum’s
collection in their own environment before experiencing the collection in situ. This
allows the consortium of schools to combine work with elements of their (curated)
cultural heritage in an even more integrated way with their curriculum teaching. An
exciting consequence of this multi-agency partnership working is the potential for
the consortium to make strong links with their mainstream schools. For the music
activities, the project team has approached the music teachers at the mainstream
schools that the supplementary school pupils attend with a view towards specifically
working with the music teachers to provide supplementary school musical activities
which will enhance the mainstream school music provision. The project team hopes
to emulate this approach for its other curriculum areas. It is hoped that this
collaborative approach will be less of a challenge to mainstream schools and more of
a call for a working partnership between the two sectors with the goal of raising
academic attainment for all.
An interesting point emerges from this type of partnership working; namely the
reduction of market competition. By working with Manchester Metropolitan
University and the University of Manchester, the consortium has been able to access
an extremely large array of cultural and educational activities for free; adding an
inordinate amount of value and leverage to its curriculum delivery. One of the things
the project team noticed since the start of the pilot is that many of the outreach
activities provided by Manchester’s cultural and educational providers were unknown
to them. So, in working with the wider community of educational and cultural
stakeholders in this way, the consortium has been able to boost its offer of a
supplementary education that is designed to thoroughly complement mainstream
provision rather than to compete with it, in so doing helping to shape best practice
for both sectors by ultimately reaching more children.
Teacher Continuing Professional Development
In order to be able to work in more effective partnerships with mainstream schools,
the project team recognised the need to invest in improving the consortium’s
teaching and management skills. The project team approached the Faculty of
Education at Manchester Metropolitan University in order to arrange Continuing
Professional Development (CPD) training. Manchester Metropolitan University (2013)
The Faculty of Education offers a wide range of high quality continuing
professional development opportunities for individuals and for organisations
working in the Education sector….We offer programmes of study which can
lead to accreditation and awards….We also work in partnership with schools,
colleges and other organisations in developing tailored CPD programmes that
meet local needs and priorities - again with a focus on high quality work that
achieves real change.
The CPD team in the Faculty of Education tailored a PG Certificate in Teaching and
Learning to suit the consortium’s supplementary education needs. To this end, the
project team have met with Manchester City Council’s INATSS team with a view
towards seeing if they could meaningfully combine Manchester Metropolitan
University’s CPD and NRCSE’s OCN-provision into a joint award-bearing PG Cert and
NRCSE certificate; discussions about this are ongoing.
Both Esther and Zeinab feel that this is an extremely important part of the pilot
project because they have identified volunteer teachers in their schools who would
like to enter teaching professionally. Our PG Cert in Teaching and Learning would act
as a stepping stone for them to achieve PG Diploma QT (Qualified Teacher) status.
Esther and Zeinab feel that having suitably qualified teachers in the consortium is
not only good in terms of investing in the employability skills of its volunteer
teachers but also sends out an important subliminal message to the children that the
teachers are also making education a
priority for themselves. This is an
important point because it creates “soft” role models where the children are not
exposed to formal role models with all of the Foucauldian juridical issues explored in
Chapter 1. Instead, they get to work with people from their own communities whom
they already organically trust and respect
community members who are also
personally modelling engagement in education. Finally, having formally qualified
volunteer teachers in the consortium will make it much easier for them to form real
partnerships with mainstream teachers that are based on equity and respect. The
CPD will also ensure a consistently high level of professional practice and delivery
across the consortium. This will be another significant aspect of sharing best practice
across the sectors that will transform the ideological landscape in our schools.
Education-led Community Enterprise
The consortium looked very closely at how it could pool its resources. Prior to joining
the consortium, each school had its own policy for charging for its services. The
project team worked hard to devise a standard pricing policy across the consortium
using a model where funds will be deposited into a central banking account for the
consortium. This means that each school will have access to the central funds,
subject to controls introduced by the consortium. An area where resource sharing is
already in practice is the CPD. The consortium has applied for external funding in
order to meet the tuition costs for its cohort of ten. The funding will pay for each
teacher from across the consortium of schools to receive the MMU teacher-CPD.
MMU has also made charitable donations of its old IT equipment to the consortium,
which have been shared across its networks of schools. The Student Ambassadors
will be paid to co-deliver the curriculum subjects by the consortium as they work
across its network of schools. On the surface, the consortium resembles an
embryonic Co-operative. However, because the consortium is not in a competitive
market and is parent-led, it provides a significant opportunity for partnership
working between mainstream and supplementary schools. This means that even
children who only attend mainstream schools and are outside of the consortium will
still benefit from the partnership work initiated by the consortium and its wider
Through this enterprise activity, the consortium seeks recognition as a collection of
education-led grass roots community organisations. This is significant because as the
business model for the consortium develops it intends to offer additional community
services around its education provision, such as healthy eating clubs, homework
clubs or adult lifelong learning classes. Empowering communities to provide local
services through education-led enterprises will be an extremely interesting
development to watch.
The project team wants to roll out this initiative to the other schools in the
Manchester Supplementary Schools Network (MSSN) and both NRCSE and
Manchester City Council have an interest in helping to scale up this initiative
nationally. The initial signs for this type of multi-agency partnership working seem
promising. It will be interesting to track the progress of this pilot, as it will have
significant implications for the provision of grass-roots and parent-led educational
provision, especially if more BAME young people gain higher academic attainment
and with the Cultural Capital gained from these activities, gain more frequent access
to the Russell Group and Oxbridge universities. The MEaP project team hopes that
the very act of empowering grass-roots communities through education-led
enterprise and multi-agency partnership building will produce social change in their
communities but on their own terms.
Abbott, D. (2013a, May 18).
Making Education a Priority: Alternative Approaches - Key
Retrieved October 9, 2013, from Manchester Metropolitan
University, Faculty of Education: http://www.ioe.mmu.ac.uk/making-
Bradford City Council. (2013, August 1).
Supplementary Schools Service
from Bradford Schools Online:
Clennon, O. (2013, November 22).
Innovation in Partnership: An introduction to
collaborative working between supplementary schools, universities, museums
and arts and heritage organisations.
Retrieved February 28, 2014, from
National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement:
Corrick, K. (2013, July).
. Retrieved February 28, 2014, from Data
Dyson, A., Goldrick, S., Jones, L., & Kerr, K. (2010).
Equity in Education: Creating a
fairer education system.
Manchester: Centre for Equity in Education, University
ESA. (2014, February 28).
. Retrieved February 28, 2014, from European Space
Haringey Council. (2013, August 1).
Resources for supplementary schools
from Haringey Council: http://www.haringey.gov.uk/index/children-
Manchester City Council. (2013, October 9).
International New Arrivals, Travellers &
Supplementary Schools: Item 5 Juvenile Employment.
Manchester City Council:
Manchester Metropolitan University. (2013).
Continuing Professional Development
Retrieved September 23, 2013, from http://www.ioe.mmu.ac.uk/cpd/
Manchester Metropolitan University. (2014, February 28).
PGCert/PGDip STEM (Maths
Retrieved February 28, 2014, from Manchester
Maylor, U. (2012). The Secret of Supplementary Schools Success.
Educational Research Association
MCBF. (2014, February 28).
Manchester Children's Book Festival 26 June - 6 July 2014
Retrieved February 28, 2014, from Manchester Children's Book Festival:
National College. (2013, June).
National College for Teaching and Leadership:
Retrieved August 1, 2013, from Department for Education:
National Resource Centre for Supplementary School Education. (2013, October 10).
NRCSE Training Courses.
Retrieved from NRCSE: National Resource Centre for
OFFA. (2009, January 13).
OFFA and HEFCE call on higher education institutions to
submit strategic assessments of their widening participation activity
February 28, 2014, from OFFA: Office for Fair Access:
Inclusive Schools: The Free Schools Monitoring Project.
on the Agenda (ROTA) available at http://www.rota.org.uk/content/rota-
University of Manchester. (2014, February 28).
Community Engagement: Museum
comes to you
. Retrieved February 28, 2014, from University of Manchester:
University of Manchester. (2014, February 28).
. Retrieved February
28, 2014, from The University of Manchester:
See Chapter 1
See Chapter 2
They were wary of ethical and philosophical challenges outlined in the previous chapter.
See Chapter 3
A network of all the supplementary schools in Manchester
Who are a mix of under and post graduate students, who also receive training in workshop and
research skills, as they will contribute to the research programme that is embedded in the initiative
that is designed to measure the young people’s changed attitudes towards Higher Education as a
result of participation in the pilot project. The Student Ambassadors are paid by the supplementary
schools to work with them and by Widening Participation to contribute to the wider academic
research around participation.
A method which involves turning numerical data collected from experiments or communications
into actual musical sounds. Corrick (2013) has posted some very interesting examples of this process
on her Tumblr website, along with some interesting discussions about it merits.
For example our PGDip STEM (Maths Specialist Teacher) programme (Manchester Metropolitan
Maylor (2012) writes about the academic successes of supplementary schools.