Self Managed Learning in Local Government


Sixteen people, including two representatives from the Institute of Democratic Education in Israel enjoyed an informative afternoon, with Chris Reed, (Deputy Chief Executive) and Carol Newland (Policy team) of Eastleigh Borough Council.

The interactive afternoon, which was organised around the five SML questions, covered the major aspects of the use of SML within a council.

Like many other organisations, local authorities in the UK are facing the need to meet the demands of change over a wide front. Eastleigh Borough Council has received national recognition as a forward thinking council, committed to high quality public service and wedded to consultation and community involvement through their democratic system of area committees.

Eastleigh were a traditional council with a hierarchical organisational structure, which they moved over several years to a flatter structure, with local area committees which had their own budgets (as well as a central core), a new personal development scheme, and strong political direction.

The Personal Development Scheme offered different methods of learning, and the culture of the organisation gradually moved to one where learning was valued; one of these methods was self managed learning.

Learning using SML started in ’96 with one set and to date 5 sets have been run for 23 people. The first set had an external set adviser, and all the participants in this first set became set advisers for future sets.

The authority have produced a leaflet for staff about self managed learning covering:

  • Influences on development
  • What self managed learning is
  • The benefits
  • How it works
  • Common questions
  • How to join
  • People who you can contact to find out more
  • Comments from past participants

Participation in SML is voluntary and sets have been multi-level, with a diverse range of people. An evaluation has been undertaken on sets 2,3 4.

During the afternoon we also learnt a lot about the work of the council and its philosophy. However, I have concentrated mainly on the SML aspects. Eastleigh is committed to learning, and they know that it will help with the challenges and changes ahead.

Liz Barlow