Mayor announces 2016 as Bristol’s Year of Learning

Mayor George Ferguson has announced the launch of an ambitious project to promote the value of learning for everyone in the city and establish 2016 as Bristol’s Year of Learning.

Bristol Learns is a campaign that aims to raise awareness of the opportunities to learn in all parts of the city and promote the benefits of learning across all ages and backgrounds.

During Bristol’s Year of Learning in 2016, the campaign will build on the work of the established Learning City Partnership Board, chaired by the Mayor, which brings together business leaders, educators, policy makers and advocates. The Board’s ongoing drive to create and promote learning opportunities for all communities and all ages in all parts of the city will be a central feature of the campaign in 2016.

An important aspect will be continuing the legacy of Bristol’s year as European Green Capital to keep sustainability high on the agenda and integrate learning from the city’s Green Capital experience. On Monday 23 November the city will stage the national launch one of the most important legacies from its year as European Green Capital in the form of an environmental education programme for schools. Designed to give primary school teachers the tools they need to bring sustainability to life in the classroom, the Bristol programme will also be showcased internationally at the United Nations’ global climate talks in Paris next month.

George Ferguson, Mayor of Bristol, said:

“I am determined to ensure that all Bristol citizens have the necessary learning opportunities to develop and reach their potential. Learning is a lifelong activity and every day I learn something new, but not everyone has the same opportunity. I am delighted to be able to announce 2016 as a themed Year of Learning and I will commit the charitable Mayor’s Fund for Bristol to learning initiatives and opportunities throughout that time.

“The power learning has to change people’s lives cannot be overestimated. It can develop new skills, open up routes into work, help us meet new people and encounter new ideas, and most importantly it is the principal driver for social mobility.”

Learning is a lifelong activity and Bristol offers some of the best opportunities to get involved. 87 percent of schools in the city are rated as “Good” or “Outstanding” by Ofsted whilst the city’s universities are world-class centres of learning and research. In addition to the formal learning settings, adult learning courses are available across the city through a thriving scene of private classes and group learning.

The campaign also recognises that Bristol is a city of contrasts where not everyone has the same opportunity to learn. Ensuring that these contrasts do not become barriers is a major aim for Bristol Learns.

The commitment to establishing Bristol as a learning city was laid down by the Mayor as part of his vision, launched at his State of the City address two years ago. As part of the desire to “Keep Bristol working and learning” it was recognised that every citizen should have access to the very best education and is able to acquire the skills they need to join the city’s world class workforce.

A focus on skills is also being brought about by the city’s bid to become European City of Innovation in 2016, a bid announced by the Mayor during his address. The award is given to the European city which is building the best environment to encourage innovation and building partnerships to connect citizens with business, academia and public organisations.

The bid submitted by the council recognises the city’s rich innovation culture that brings together leaders and organisations from across business, academia, public and voluntary sectors.

Living examples can be seen across the city from the business incubator based at the Engine Shed, Temple Meads, to the Knowle West Media Centre and the multi-faceted Bristol Is Open project.

Should the bid be successful, it will be the Learning City Partnership Board who will provide the governance for Bristol’s year as European City of Innovation, ensuring a further forging of links between learning and innovation. The board are currently actively involved in the engagement hub of the Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone, providing support around training, apprenticeships and employment.

This culture of innovation stems from the many major organisations in the city that are driving Bristol’s growing digital and creative industries. With innovative talent flowing from the city’s two Universities and opportunities being created by major employers across the region, the link between innovation and skills is a vital part of Bristol’s learning landscape.

The Mayor said:

“Bristol has a legacy of nurturing talent in a range of fields through our world class universities and the dedication of local employers to give youth a chance. I believe that as England’s first Learning City we are in the perfect position to develop that pool of talent and provide a major boost to our already highly skilled workforce.”

The Bristol Learns campaign will look to inspire others to commit to learn something new in 2016 by bringing people together to share their learning experience. Through pop-up booths in museums, screens in Millennium Square and a range of online portals, people will be asked to tell others how they will commit to learning something new and why.

To support these commitments there will be a number of taster sessions created across the city, giving people the chance to experience new learning opportunities first hand. These will include popular ‘open door’ weekends and sessions held at the city’s multiple festivals throughout the year.