Unabridged version: Green Shoots, New Cross, London

Green Shoots, New Cross, London


Delivery organisation

Green Shoots


New Cross Trust, programme value unknown

About the project

Green Shoots is an environmental and family learning project which offers a range of courses in a community garden in New Cross, offering courses for children and their parents to explore nature and help improve the environment. The project also offers opportunities to explore the wider environment, beyond the community garden, for instance, making and screening a film about the spoken languages in the area.

The courses offered include communications and presentation skills courses for parents to sharpen their skills and improve CVs, and courses to help parents support the learning of their children. Typical courses include 'Help Your Child With Numeracy' and 'Help Your Child With Literacy'. The project notes that a popular course is Parent Practice which allows parents to trials and tribulations of family life.

Green shoots is open to children and families that live in and around the area.

The big idea

The project manager is a resident of New Cross and had seen a semi derelict plot of land in her neighbourhood. The site contained lots of plants and looked like a secret little garden in an urban setting, a space that lent itself to creative activities.

Setting up the project

In 2005, the project manager became aware of funding stream through the New Cross New Deal for Communities (NDC), with the remit to develop family learning. She thought this was an exciting opportunity to develop ways for a family to learn together and accessed funds through the NDC to invest in the site.

The project manager, with colleagues, created a new space for the community. The space is used for parents to learn with a separate space for children's activity.

Over the years Green Shoots have increased the number of buildings and they now have three learning spaces. They cater for a variety of learning experiences, as well as broad activities and provide activities for children under five. They also provide adult learning courses, particularly on communications and presentation skills. On completion of the course, participants take the English speaking board exam.

The impact of the project

Approximately 700 people use the resource. In any one weekend they can have 200 people in the garden, participating in activities. To date 60 residents have achieved level 2, and 15 achieved level 4 in presentation and communication skills. Of the most recent cohort, six of the eight achieved a distinction. The purpose of this qualification is to builds confidence. The majority of attendees are women who may have been out of work and they attend the course to help with interview skills and to boost their CV.

The project also offers courses that help parents to help their child in mathematics and literacy. This is particularly popular for parents who lack confidence in literacy and numeracy themselves.

During the summer holidays, 500 people have taken part in activities. These activities have included ukulele lessons, jazz singing and circus training. During the summer holidays the project hosts a morning choir, which includes children as young as seven as well as older women.

Environmental learning is open to the community. The project also runs beekeeping courses and raise awareness on environmental issues and gardening. This is targeted at people that are interested in bees or are considering bee-keeping themselves.

There is a good mix of participants who are representative of the local community. This includes long term unemployed, parents of children that under five, both people on low incomes and middle class parents. The adult courses attract people that speak English as a second language.

The project manager described the impact of the project on community cohesion, confidence, and self esteem, and people becoming job ready. For instance, one Asian mother of twins came to the project, and said she had otherwise not ventured outside of her home for two years.

Lessons learned

The project provides promotion through word of mouth and works in partnership with agencies to engage with families with children from 0-12. They also target people that are grandparents. The project puts leaflets into school book bags, for five primary schools. The project also provides a newsletter which is delivered door to door and a website, though the project manager finds that this has the least impact.

The project also works with local volunteers. At present, they have three volunteer gardeners, one of whom has learning difficulties.

Three top tips

Don't give up. If you have done your homework, stick with it, don't be out off by someone that doesn't get your vision. It may be that you are talking to the wrong person, sell it differently, go somewhere else for help.

Listen to your beneficiaries. Listen to what they have to say. You cannot always give people what they want but consider how you may be able to adapt.

Make people feel welcome. Participants are the best means of promoting the project.

Where next?

The funding has been cut but the New Deal for Communities has set up a successor body, the New Cross Gate Trust (NCGT). The NCGT now fund this project. The funding is generated from assets that were purchased by the NDC.

15 September 2011

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