Welcome and why we have written this oral history
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Welcome to our website, oral history and archive project – our legacy!

We are the Steering Group members of Pecket Learning Community (previously known as ‘Pecket Well College’) and we call our organisation ‘Pecket’.

We are [now] a small user led organisation run by and for people tackling difficulties with the written word and/or numbers and everyone who strives for more inclusive education.  This project was our last and preparation to wind down Pecket and leave a lasting legacy behind us.

Our  Steering Group consisted of people tackling these difficulties (Pecket founder members and other members) and academics (Occupational Science, community development and Literacy) who supported our aims. We worked as equals – sharing skills and responsibility for all aspects of managing this project.

It was our responsibility and joy to manage multiple projects (oral history, archive and website) in a short timescale (Nov 2011 to May 2014) that together have left an accessible and, we hope, inspiring legacy of the life of our organisation and the thousands of people who have been involved as founder members, participants, Directors, volunteers, paid workers or partner organisations.

Pecket’s founder members were all directly involved in ‘adult basic education’ in the late 1970s or early 1980s– either as students or tutors. They came from different backgrounds bringing varied skills and experiences but each wanted something more from our ‘education’ system. Something happened which caused them to dream. To dream of their own small residential centre – run by and for others like them. They wanted to cast off old ideas of ‘student’ and ‘tutor’, to find a way of working and learning together as equals!

During the next 30 years our small group of committed people grew and grew. Our founders were joined by many people tackling difficulties like themselves and from increasingly diverse backgrounds as our organisation developed. People from other professions also joined us along the way e.g. community education, community arts, disability rights organisations.

At the height of our activities we were running multiple courses, projects and activities and providing peer education to hundreds of people each month.

Our own education progressed in ways we could not have predicted. We became Directors, Charity Trustees, we designed/costed and fundraised for truly inclusive courses and events. We renovated, managed and ran a residential education centre. We acquired skills in publicity, outreach, publication production, managing budgets, and running user-led workshops. We travelled locally, regionally and internationally – not easy when you can’t read signs or timetables!

We learned how to challenge systems that keep people like us down and found strength we didn’t know we had. We made friends and colleagues in many other countries e.g. Sweden, Egypt and Brazil. Our proudest achievement was to encourage many hundreds of people like ourselves to become involved in Pecket and realise they are not alone!

We have seen so many people blossom and discover and fulfil their dreams. For some it was writing a letter to a loved one or an estranged friend or family member. For others it was learning that they have a voice and a right to be listened to. For others it was speaking up or reading in public. Some found the courage to lead workshops, become Directors, build social lives, become campaigners, do voluntary work or find paid employment.

We witnessed the potential that can be unleashed when we are part of a group and accepted for who we are.

We encouraged some education ‘professionals’ to change their ways of working and relating to people tackling difficulties with reading, writing and/or numbers. We showed that the phrase ‘hard to reach groups’ is misleading – we continually reviewed how we worked and found new ways of working which helped our courses become more inviting to new individuals and groups.

We continue to learn new skill and ways of working during this project. We achieved our dream and much more!

We forged a new way of working which we call ‘The Pecket Way’. We knew that what we were doing and how we were doing it was unusual and attracting attention amongst educational communities. We decided to record every step of our journey in the hope that we could:

1: Remind ourselves of our struggles and achievements

2: Show that having difficulties with the written word and/or numbers should not stop us having a voice, being listened to or stop us having dreams and making them come true; and

3: Show what can be achieved when we let go of old power relations and ways of working

We tape recorded most meetings and kept paperwork, documents, artworks, writings, life stories, photographs, computer files and other items. We hoped that one day we would produce an oral history and archive of our work so we could share our journey, our triumphs, our mistakes, our adventure and our passion with others working towards a more inclusive education system.

We achieved our dream and eventually bought and ran our own small successful centre for many years. Sadly in the early 2000s lots of changes happened both within and outside Pecket. The shape of adult basic and community education changed; as did other public sector service provision and funding streams. Within Pecket relationships and ways of working changed.

Maintaining the building; struggling to fundraise for and run courses; whilst resisting immense pressure to deliver accredited courses that did not ‘feel’ like the education we wanted to offer – all combined to defeat us. Our building was put up for sale – we tried to save it but couldn’t.

Finally there was a flood in the building, many items were lost. A few people quickly packed all physical items into 120 cardboard boxes that sat in an outside store in Halifax for two years.

The Pecket Well College building’s deterioration and eventual sale filled us with sadness, a sense of failure and shame and we drifted apart for a while. It was (and still is for some of us) as though the building itself had bonded us.

The silver lining of our loss is this oral history, and archive project (2011 to 2014) funded from the proceeds of the sale of our beloved building. The process of looking back has been a joyful, tearful, emotional and at times painful experience for us. It has taken effort and courage to come back together and talk about the roller coaster ride that was, and still is, Pecket.

By July 2013 we  sorted through all archive boxes, put items we want to save into lots of piles and will continue saving as much as we can onto a computer and our website – before we wind down at the end of May 2014.

We recruited an oral history project worker Cilla Ross who has patiently and skilfully pieced together our oral history and has written this 99 page document! We couldn’t afford to have all of our interviews typed up so she had to listen to many hours of audio recordings to extract relevant quotes.

We Pecket Wellians are still learning new skills and have done some of the oral history interviewing and filming ourselves. We have also learned a lot about ourselves and about the process of writing an oral history. The hour interviews conducted in the oral history project were for some of us an unlocking of a process that we wanted to continue.

The project co-ordinator has been able to run follow up interviews for these more in-depth reflections, and these form the last section of the oral history. Now we are a team again we realise we all held back in our interviews… often the most interesting thoughts and experiences were not mentioned……

We are going to add an appendix to our oral history. The ‘What I didn’t say in my oral history interview’ section will be added later in 2014!

This process has also helped us to be honest with ourselves and each other and to let go of lots of feelings of failure, disappointment and sadness.

We are celebrating our achievements and look forward to adding more and more items to our digital archives up to the end of May 2014.

We are delighted to tell you that West Yorkshire Archive Service has agreed to take our physical archives into storage during November/December 2013.

We know that the best way to preserve our work is by sharing our journey with some younger people who have similar difficulties themselves.

We are convinced there is a need for other groups like ours to lobby government to continue to improve the provision of adult basic education in the UK. The Secretary of State for Education Rt Hon Michael Grove MP was asked at questioned recently:
Paul Uppal:
“A recent study has found that just under a quarter of residents in Wolverhampton have no formal qualifications, which is double the national average. With that in mind, will my right hon. Friend make a commitment to ensure that learners of all ages have the necessary skills and qualifications to enter employment and bridge the skills gap?”
The reply was:
Michael Gove: “My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We need to make sure, of course, that we intervene early to ensure that the next generation succeeds at a higher level than ever before, but we also need to ensure that older people who, for whatever reason, failed to benefit from the education on offer during their time, are given the chance to re-engage with the world of education to improve their literacy and numeracy “
Source: (Hansard, April 22, 2013, column 622)

During this project we have made attempts to  meet and talk with some younger people who have difficulties with reading and writing and/or numbers. We are interested to hear what they think and we  invite  any young people who look at this website or read our oral history to get in touch, give us their feedback and we will include their thoughts and comments into this website…..

We have learned lots about designing a website on a very small budget. We have done our best to consider different access needs. We learned it is impossible to accommodate everyone’s needs but important to think of as many issues as possible at the design stage.

During the project we met and began working with KVIN (Kirklees Visual Impairment Network) which made us consider the access needs of people with a visual impairment.

The same assistive technologies such as speech output software can help all of us to access information. If we had known then what we know now the website might be a little different but life continues to be a learning journey.

We know that offering people the choice of how they access our website, oral history and archive will make it accessible to more people and we will continue to add as much audio and/or visual material as we can.

Time to reflect during this project  helped us to recognise that our journey must come to an end but also that our work and the energy and love of everyone who came into contact with Pecket will inspire others  to take more control of your education or to support others to do so!