Jonathan Zeitlyn (1996) Community Education at Fleet Bulletin of Environmental Education, n173 p13-16 Oct

Community Education at Fleet

Jonathan Zeitlyn

Why do people within education talk of the community as though it were a different place? How can people see schooling as a totally alien child's world? How do they equate continuing education with their own unhappy experience of school?

Much of the media doesn't answer any of these questions or even help people to solve these problems. The media itself mystifies the process by which it selects both the news and the outlines of discussion. Media is made inaccessible by hiding behind professionalism and technical reasons.

In my work as a community education worker I have been trying to change people's attitude to education and media. This work provides an example of the work and approach of the Fleet Community Education Centre in ILEA.


As you come into the Fleet Community Education Centre there is a wall. This wall is our wall newspaper. Here the latest news of what's happening at the Centre is displayed. Photos reporting activities and events are put up with headlines and captions. Posters advertising new classes are displayed. Some have lists to sign for people who want to do the new course. Some of the photos and some of the writing are the members' work. There is a darkroom and photography classes and some people who do photography take on projects for the Centre. These projects usually report on either an event usually report on either an event or a regular activity so that members' work is used to encourage people or other members to try new activities. Photos are also used in displays about the Centre in local libraries, health centres or job centres and some are used in local newspapers when they are running an article on Fleet. The photo displays have been very effective publicly, people can actually see that people like themselves actually take part in education and can visualise themselves going to Fleet. The range of work at Fleet is wide, people come to the darkroom and seek help with a publicity and printing from a very basic level to quite ambitious projects. A tenants's association or school needs a simple newsletter while a photographer needs help designing an exhibition of photos and a poster to advertise it. One member wants to publish her translations of Russian poetry while others want to publish a postcard.


As well as running the darkroom and photography groups I also work on the publicity for Fleet. It isn't that difficult to send material to the local press and radio about our events and classes. But you come across a series of news values that the media uses to decide what is interesting. They tend to reject stories of people regularly having a good time and learning interesting things. An essential aim is to shift these news values. I continue to send in my press releases and argue that what happens in education is important and needs reflecting in the media. When this doe happen more people will be encouraged to think about their education as something that they could continue with. People should realise that education is something that concerns them and they have a right to be involved in debates over priorities and funding.


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By getting to know some focal journalists there have been some moves to report what happens at Fleet in a generally positive way. We now have a simple list of all the local media in our area which we use all the time but also give to local groups and other centres. It is surprising how many free advertising papers, internal news-letters, hospital radio and community newspapers exist and welcome news on local community education.


The Fleet has both a duplicators and photo copier that are used by local people. Photocopying today can produce very good copies (when the machine is working well). It copies onto A4 and A3 paper so that we can produce very quickly both leaflets, posters and newspapers for very local distribution on a small scale. Within the Fleet there is a magazine and video work as well as the wall newspaper. Much of this work encourages members to think again about media - not as something to consume but as a useful form of expression which people can use for them-selves. From this practical work a more critical perspective can be encouraged. Once you've seen your own writing, photos or drawings in print or used in some way for everyone to see you think slightly differently about all the other 'professional' media.

As well as working with individuals or classes the Fleet also works with groups. Many have needs to do with publicity and publications of allsorts. By helping them with publicising their activities we are able to support them to organise their own education and their own organisation.

There is no simple way to effectively publicise education. It is often hard work walking the streets to find that there is little immediate response to the publicity. Groups fill up word of mouth and by the infectious enthusiasm of our members. Publicising our work and the general raising of awareness of the existence of Fleet and the possibility of education round the corner is an important priority.

The Fleet Community Education Centre is a working example of successful non-formal local community education. The attempt to promote the idea of continuing education in sections of society that haven't got involved already is an important part of this work. If in doing this work we can also question the role of the media and encourage the growth of a different sort of media then we are succeeding as educators.

Jonathan Zeitlyn