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University develops course to understand gang culture

HIGHER LEARNING: From left back row – Lecturer Sangeeta Soni, interim operations manager Dave Grimwood, and student Lorraine Lewis. Front row: Student Jason Sylvester and lecturer Camille Ade-John

A PILOT course is being launched in Birmingham to offer a nationally recognised City & Guilds certificate in working with gangs. Called Community Safety (Working with Gangs) it carries a City & Guilds Level 3 certification, which is equivalent of an A level.

The groundbreaking project has been created to answer the needs of professionals such as teachers and probation officers, and also community-based volunteers to better understand gang culture.

The course has been developed from a partnership between University College Birmingham (UCB) and St George’s Community hub in Newtown.

Those students who graduate from the 36-week course will be the first cohort in Britain to have this qualification, which could enable them to progress to a foundation degree at UCB.

“The course includes a mix of academics and front line troops and the idea is to pool the knowledge resources of all those who work on a daily basis in gang-related environments,” explained Dave Grimwood, interim operations manager at St George’s.

“Teachers, probation workers, social workers and volunteers all deal with gang issues from a different perspective and the aim is to establish some common ground in order for everyone to work better.

“In Britain today, whether we like it or not, gangs are prevalent enough in most cities for it to be commonplace for public sector professionals and volunteers to be working with young people involved in gang culture.

ISSUES

“But each part of the UK will have issues specific to that geographical area. The situation in Glasgow may be different to that in south London and future courses will have to be tailored to reflect those differences.”

Grimwood emphasised that there are no pre-requisites, other than an interest in working in gang-related environments. He said a wide spectrum of people - from those who already had degrees to those with no formal academic qualifications – have signed up.

The aim is to give those on the frontline the right ‘toolkits’ to better understand both the day-to-day aspects and social contexts that create and promote gangs.

The pilot scheme was the brainchild of academic Chris Webb, a former college principal of City College, Handsworth.

Lecturers involved in the course, which will be run on Monday evenings at St George’s, include Sangeeta Soni, a qualified youth and community worker and a lecturer at UCB’s School of Education and Community, and sociology lecturer Camille Ade-John, who is also a director of St George’s and was part of the course’s development team.

Ade-John said: “People who deal daily with gang members often have no framework to work from. We’ve had a lot of interest in the course from both from volunteers and professionals – even firefighters who feel it would be beneficial for them.”

The five-part structure includes working locally with gangs within a National Policy Framework; equipping the learner with the knowledge to work safely in a gang-related environment, and to understand the social reasons behind gang culture.

The course can be completed either as an award at a cost of £550 or as a certificate, which is £850.

Grimwood added: “The course costs will hopefully be met by either a development budget for professionals who want to take part, or in the case of volunteers, the organisation they work for. We are also keen to attract sponsors to help keep costs down.”

■ For further details email Sangeeta Soni at s.soni@ucb.ac.uk or Dave Grimwood at admin@stgeorgescentre.org.uk. The course starts on February 25.

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