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Cities of Learning

Cities of Learning is a social movement that uses digital innovation to widen access to meaningful, connected learning.

Our approach is tailored to the needs and priorities of each location and works by uniting and aligning the interests of education, employer and community networks - creating a social architecture to support leaning and development.

Cities of Learning is being piloted in two UK Cities, Brighton and Plymouth.

Our delivery partners in Brighton and Plymouth have been working with local learning providers and employers to co-design digital badges that recognise experience and skills in:

  • youth volunteering & social action
  • work-readiness
  • audio production
  • leadership skills
  • ceramics
  • digital photography
  • and many more…

These badges are giving learners access to opportunities – mastering a profession or building their all-important personal skills.

The digital platform shows people the places they can learn in their city. The Open Badges track what they learn and where, giving them a new currency beyond exam results to showcase their talents. 

By focusing on learning outside the classroom and employability/life skills, Cities of Learning bridges achievement and skills gaps to improve social mobility.

The ‘place-based’ part of the programme, rooted in communities, helps to foster pride in local places.


New credentials for students studying at home

Like everyone involved in education, the Cities of Learning pilots are adapting to the rapid changes brought on by Covid-19.

Our existing networks of schools, colleges, and employers has proved even more valuable during this difficult time. They’ve enabled a faster and more joined up approach.

We are all about championing learning. So we’re working with schools and students to co-design new badges that recognise the forms of learning taking place and celebrate creativity.

As the Brighton delivery partner, Future Creators have been working with Varndean Secondary School to create a range of badges that can be issued to Year 11 students, to recognise their work as they continue their studies independently from home.

These badges include Independent Researcher badges, plus Collaborator badges for group work.

The Independent Researcher badge recognises students who have completed research projects related to subject they are interested in pursuing at A Level. Early topics that students have created themselves include ‘The psychology behind Fears and Phobias’ and ‘To what extent is America a true democracy?’.  

Like all Cities of Learning badges, the ‘researcher’ badge can be awarded at different levels of experience. For example, ‘Demonstrate’ is the highest level for this badge and requires students to get feedback and guidance from a professional in the subject matter of their project.

Our technology means ideas can be developed and issued quickly. In this case, the badge is being rolled out just two weeks after schools closed.

Another local sixth from, the Brighton, Hove & Sussex Sixth Form College (BHASVIC), have recognised digital badges as an effective solution: “BHASVIC recognises involvement in the Cities of Learning 'badging' scheme as excellent preparation activity for current year 11s who are intending to start college in September.”


Connecting learners with routes into employment

It’s not just schools closing that's impacting leaners. Work experience and employer engagement has been severely curtailed.

Plymouth’s Cities of Learning pilot lead is Real Ideas (RIO). They work directly with young people to help develop their digital and employability skills and to help those in greatest need to connect to jobs and work experience.

Over the last two weeks Real Ideas have pivoted their whole business and operational model to provide online learning and work experience opportunities that connect directly to employers.

Badges can be awarded for different levels of interaction, for example engaging with an online employer presentation and online workplace tours to digital work shadowing and online/remote challenges.

1-1 consultations, creative workshops, cooking demonstrations, fitness activities and group work search activity has all taken place along with the work experience opportunities. Digital badges will also be rewarded for the skills young people have shown in adapting to this change. 


Using the crisis to increase autonomy, resilience and creativity

Supporting learning during social distancing requires a holistic approach. Innovative ways to recognise learning taking place must also consider the student’s learning environment, individual resources and the support parents need.

The RSA suggested a number of measures which might help to ensure that all children have access to quality learning experiences over the coming months.

The Cities of Learning team believe that a quality-assured digital badges, co-created through a dialogue between schools, students and our employers in our pilots can be applied nationally.

The Cities of Learning movement extends to London, and the RSA will be working with Westminster City Council, Waltham Forest Council and Culture Mile Learning to help them design badges for young people in the area over the coming months.

The Covid-19 pandemic has the potential to disrupt traditional ways of working, learning and assessment. This is the time to think creatively about how we can increase and recognise autonomy, resilience and creativity for when school gates open again.