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Skilled for health and skilled for life

Margaret Siudek shows how the right context can stimulate community learning

It will be no surprise to Skills for Life professionals that there are links between Skills for Life needs and health inequalities. Skilled for Health [1] aims to reduce health inequalities in communities with the worst health outcomes, to enable individuals to make informed decisions about health and wellbeing, and to use health as an incentive to engage adults in improving their Skills for Life.

MLA London, the strategic regional development agency for museums, libraries and archives in London, is running Skilled for Health classes in libraries in several London boroughs. This pilot project aims to test the effectiveness of libraries as locations for informal learning and to trial the Skilled for Health teaching materials which embed Skills for Life at Entry 2 to Level 1 in the context of health literacy.

Teaching materials

The materials are in two large packs, which can be used both by Skills for Life teachers and by community health practitioners. They include teachers' guidance with specific notes on numeracy and on ESOL, advice on the help that these learners (and those with special needs) might be given, together with teaching and learning resources and detailed curriculum mapping. Topics include healthy eating, keeping active, substances, keeping safe, first aid, using the NHS, and mental wellbeing [2].


Skilled for Health classes are being held in libraries in Ealing, Barking and Dagenham, Haringey, and Newham. The lessons are led by a qualified ESOL teacher with support from local health professionals who have visited the classes to give advice about smear tests, contraception and breast awareness.

Learners have the opportunity to ask questions and find out what to expect during an appointment with a medical professional. Other sessions are attended by a Sport Outreach Officer who measures learners' blood pressure and body mass index and discusses heart-related health issues.


Feedback from learners, teachers and health professionals has been very positive. Many learners are eager to move on from this introduction to learning, in a subject which is of real interest to them, to other classes.

Margaret Siudek is the Skills for Life manager at Museums Libraries Archives London

[1] Skilled for Health is a national programme managed by the community learning organisation ContinYou (www.continyou.org.uk) with funding from the Department of Health and DIUS (see Glossary).

[2] The materials are available from prolog (0845 60 222 60; ref: embedded/SfH1 and /SFH2) and can also be downloaded from http://rwp.qia.oxi.net/embeddedlearning/skilled_health/

The Practitioners say:

  • 'The students tell me that they now feel more confident after having attended the classes, and are enjoying reading books in English. They also feel confident in helping their children with their school work.'
    Shanthi Ahilathirunayagam, Ethnic Stock Librarian, Ealing

  • The Skilled for Health materials are well laid out and extremely supportive in delivering the subjects... The advice on how to present the lesson was an added bonus.'
    Frances Brodie, ESOL teacher, Barking and Dagenham

  • ''I think Skilled for Health makes people aware that the library isn't just for borrowing books and using the computers. It encourages people to come into the library and join.'
    Panny Smith, Librarian,Haringey

The Learners say:

  •   'I am more confident in speaking, which was my problem.'
  •   'I can talk to other people; that was really scary earlier.'
  •   'I use less oil and salt when I'm cooking.'
  •   'I am more aware of what I eat as I also look at labels on food which tells you exactly what is in them.'
  •   'I couldn't speak before this class to make appointment in doctor's.'
  •   'We want more classes about health and I will be great thankful if you begin here more English class.'
  •   'I spoke about all the things I've learned with my friends. They were surprised how much I know that they don't.'

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