Older Blackpool Coastal Housing residents are sharpening their digital skills, thanks to a successful partnership with Highfield Leadership Academy.

Pupils have been supporting the over 50s and more vulnerable residents in their local community through the Silver Surfers project, which aims to help boost older people’s confidence when using the internet while also tackling social isolation.

Since the beginning of June, Highfield pupils in Years 7, 8 and 9 have been meeting weekly with older clients of Blackpool Coastal Housing (BCH) to offer coaching in using the internet to help them make the most of the online world at their fingertips.

Pupils provide one-to-one support to BCH clients during the sessions delivered by Blackpool and the Fylde College.

Joanne Thompson, our Lead Practitioner for Pupil & Community Engagement, said:

“Our pupils are developing a strong social conscience and looking out beyond their home lives and their school community for chances to make a difference to the lives of others. This project has given them a fine opportunity to give their time as volunteers to support the older generation on an engaging project that sees them share their skills. They have benefited too, by improving their own communication skills and leadership capabilities, and having their self-esteem boosted. It’s been a real win-win!”

Year 7 pupil Tyler Thompson commented:

“It makes me feel proud to be making a difference. Some of the people might have a bad day and then we meet up and everyone learns something and feels relaxed and happy. We’ve got our own little community and it has made me feel like I want to do more volunteering.”

Year 8 pupil Keira Wilkie added:

“I am finding the course very rewarding because I can see how Stella is progressing. We are helping her to develop her ICT skills and we are learning lots from her too. She has lots of advice for us.”

In 2016, Blackpool Coastal Housing and Blackpool and the Fylde College formed a partnership to deliver functional skills courses in the heart of the community within estate-based community centres as a way of making learning more accessible for residents.

Course tutor Emma Inglis said:

“The course has really brought together the local community. The intergenerational ICT course really has been a great project helping the young people mentor the adults on skills they previously didn’t have. The partnership work with the college and the school is working great within the community.”

Sandy O’Grady, Involvement and Communications Officer at Blackpool Coastal Housing, said:

“Our intergenerational ICT skills course has been extremely well received by both BCH customers and the young people from Highfield Leadership Academy who support them. It’s a fantastic opportunity to share learning and skills in a relaxed community environment.”

From September, Highfield Leadership Academy pupils will continue to work with BCH clients on the Silver Surfers project.