“Learning computer skills fills our students with joy and a belief they can achieve whatever they set their minds to.”
Sovereign House GH works to empower and improve the lives of children facing disadvantage. Based in Salford, their Computer Learning Programme (CLP) develops children’s computer skills, alongside pastoral support to build their confidence and future employability.
Irene Lockett, Founder of Sovereign House GH, shares her reflections on the CLP’s successes and how National Lottery Awards for All funding has helped the project make a greater impact in the community.
Tell us about the Computer Learning Programme
We work with volunteer teachers from local universities to teach children who would otherwise not have the opportunity to learn computer skills. Classes cover everything from digital essentials to complex coding and cyber know-how.
These are children and young people from areas with some of the highest deprivation in the UK, who don’t have access to computers. It is a multi-generational challenge where parents often don’t have digital knowledge either.
Our students are also majority BAMER (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic and Refugee), dealing with compounding social issues that can lead to exclusion from school and anti-social behavioural tendencies.
We take on children who wish to learn and give them the opportunity to develop a positive skillset, while giving them space to talk about issues they are facing with peers and trusted adults. We invite local professionals to chat about their experiences and future aspirations, showcasing the possibilities of enthusiastic participation in classes.
How does CLP help children and young people thrive?
Our students not only achieve within our classes but have gone on to show massive improvements in their school classes, due to the problem-solving and critical thinking skills they develop while learning from the CLP. In computer science, our students outstrip their peers in classes and exams.
Students are also able to support their parents and neighbours with accessing essential online services, increasing the reach and efficacy of other initiatives designed to support the wider community. They have increased control over their digital experience, using it to solve problems and highlight better futures – aspiring to careers and higher education that may otherwise have been out of reach.
We also see benefits to our community volunteers, who feel connected to a purpose and find immense fulfilment in supporting our children to reach their potential.
How did you find applying to National Lottery Awards for All for the first time?
We became aware of the National Lottery Awards for All programme through Salford CVS, who mentioned that it would be a good fit for our activities and held a training course on how to apply. We soon found that applying was not difficult and the questions were straightforward.
After being successful in our application, our grant has helped us to expand and reach many more beneficiaries who would otherwise not have had access to this programme.
Due to staffing issues, we could only hold two sessions per week, but this grant enabled us to onboard staff and increase our capacity. We currently have sessions every day and can bring staff on board, either as volunteers or team members.
I would encourage anyone thinking of applying, to apply! Make sure to answer the application questions in detail, as ultimately you know your community better than anyone.
Looking ahead, what are CLP’s plans?
We run our Salford classes out of a community centre, with a limited number of access hours each week. With the changes to National Lottery Awards for All, a potentially larger future grant could mean our teaching model could be adapted to address many more contexts. Having space to deliver lessons throughout the day would be invaluable.
We hope to go further in addressing the digital skills deficit in adults within the community, especially parents, who would then be enabled to better support their children. We also want to contribute to alternative provision for students, helping them to remain engaged in education.
We’re aiming to facilitate other community groups with specific needs to deliver tailored digital programmes, whether that is in another language, for a specific demographic, or addressing access needs. Having control over a space and full-time access would be an enormous component of this.
We’re looking forward to what the future holds for our organisation.