Back to school: 3 community groups educating outside the classroom


For many of us, September’s synonymous with getting back to school. After six months away from the classroom this year’s back to school feeling will be even headier than usual.

While kids get back into the rhythm of school, we’re reflecting on the community groups that provide training and education outside the classroom in areas not always covered by the school curriculum.

Here we shine a light on 3 projects that offer schooling on mental health, gardening and IT for anyone from primary schoolers to their grandparents.

The Lion’s Barber Collective, Torquay and beyond

The Lion’s Barber Collective was set up by Torquay based barber Tom Chapman in 2015 to increase awareness around mental health and tackle the huge issue of male suicide. The Collective runs BarberTalk training sessions for hair professionals, teaching barbers how to recognise symptoms of mental ill health in clients and giving them the tools to support through listening and signposting to relevant services.

For the full story behind this brilliant grassroots initiative watch the recently released film The 1.7 Million Haircut which chronicles why and how Tom Chapman launched Lion’s Barber.

Christchurch School Community Garden, London

Christchurch School Community Garden is a volunteer run green space for the community in East Greenwich, London. The team behind the garden have worked hard to win funding over the last few years, allowing them to install everything from a wildlife pond to an orchard. Particularly popular is their outdoor classroom where the community can come to learn about gardening, beekeeping, biodiversity and more. The garden has recently re-opened for socially distanced visits on Fridays – if you’re in Greenwich pop in for a look around.

Connect Online, Midlothian

Connect Online recruits volunteers with tech skills to teach older people who want to get online but don’t know how. Volunteers help in group settings at Computer Clubs throughout Midlothian as well as offering home visits to housebound people or carers, helping to tackle the tech divide in the older generations with particular emphasis on helping people to stay in touch with family and friends and to maintain independence.

During lockdown the groups have moved to online sessions via video call or telephone with useful follow up emails summarising the information learnt.  Learning how to use Zoom is now a frequent topic!

Do you run a project that supports your local community? Sign up to the Semble network here.

Do you want to get stuck into a community project near you? Search our directory here.

Don’t forget to look out for Semble workshops – the perfect place to upskill, learn and share. We release new sessions regularly. Keep up to date by signing up to our newsletter.

About the Author:

Lorna’s all about purpose led comms. She champions the power of connection. When she’s not talking, writing and recording at her desk she’s making pottery or has her nose in a book.