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2021 promises to be a bright year for local learners

03 February 2021
2020 was a busy year for Derry and Strabane's Learning City Programme despite the many challenges presented by Covid-19 with a whole host of virtual experiences bringing learning right into people's homes.
That momentum will continue now into 2021 thanks to the collaborative work of the newly established Learning City Network, who will carry forward plans to raise the profile of lifelong learning throughout the district and identify new opportunities to improve access to education and skills.
Looking ahead to the new programme, Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District, Councillor Brian Tierney, said the ongoing health crisis had reinforced the need to take a more flexible and inclusive approach to learning.
"The past year has been an extremely challenging one for our educators and I was extremely impressed at how the Learning City Programme was adapted to meet the changing needs of local people no longer able to avail of face to face teaching.
We are proud members of the UNESCO Learning City Network and this year the programme will continue that positive work focusing on creating lifelong learning pathways and understanding how people from different ages, communities and backgrounds access learning opportunities.
One of the ongoing challenges is ensuring that individuals furthest away from the employment and education market have the digital skills to be able to access online learning resources such as upcoming digital training, learning new skills and ensuring that all our citizens are able to access digital health care.   I want to congratulate all our stakeholders on the programme to date and I look forward to seeing what the Learning Network can achieve over the coming months."
Looking back at 2020, following the launch of the Learning City Initiative in January there was a swift change in focus from the usual education and skills platforms, to allow as many people from a wide range of different backgrounds to engage and benefit from new learning pathways and programmes.
The City hosted the world's first Virtual Learning City Festival in July, titled Learning During Lockdown, with 55 free online learning events led by 25 local experts. There was a wide array of skills based tutorials and online workshops to appeal to all ages and abilities, promoting the Learning Cities ethos of inclusive, lifelong learning in education, families, communities and the workplace.
In September 2020, the Irish Network of Learning Cities hosted 'Learning Day Ireland' celebrating all the learning collaborations that had been formed during the lockdown across the island of Ireland.  In addition, the Derry and Strabane Learning City participated in the Global Learning Festival, hosted by Wyndam Learning City in Australia.
Co-Chair of the Learning City Network, Padraig Canavan said: "Lifelong learning is becoming part of everyone's lives and the citizens of this council are in no doubt about the social, economic and mindful benefits learning brings to us both as a community and as individuals. The Learning City Network will seek to raise the profile of leaning opportunities for all of life's stages, helping to coordinate the region's activities to ensure the widest access and the greatest impact in very challenging times."
Moving forwards the Learning City Management Group and Learning City Subgroup have merged to form the Learning City Network utilizing the knowledge and expertise of a strong collaboration of learning partners. They will work together to promote lifelong learning to all citizens, of all ages across all sectors.
The network will also focus on the new challenges presented by Covid with more people seeking career and learning opportunities as a result of being furloughed or laid off, and the development of relevant skills programmes that demonstrate a clear link to job creation.
Co-Chair of the Learning City Network, Juliette Barber said: "In a year that moved education online, not once but twice, we have seen learning move in to homes in an unprecedented way. This has highlighted both a need for skills but also an opportunity to encourage people of all ages to consider themselves learners again. Our city can, and will, respond to the changes initiated by Covid and the Learning Cities network can play an important role as we regroup, redevelop and reimagine."
The new standalone Learning City website is now live with information available on all the opportunities over the coming months at www.learningcityds.com