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Wooden cubes with the letters spelling 'barter' in front of a yellow background, and two arrows (one pointing left and one pointing right).

Give and take: Glasgow school runs on barter

13 Feb 2013 | Charlotte Otter

It's not often you can use old cookery books to pay for lessons in public speaking, or learn about how to make your care home a key part of the local community in exchange for a kitchen sink.

However, at Trade School Glasgow, where barter, not money, is the name of the game, you can do just that.

The barter concept is simple: teachers come up with a wishlist of items, which students signed up for the class bring along as ‘payment’.

So, for example, the teacher of the Social Networking Without Fear class has simply asked pupils for their social media questions or problems – in exchange, pupils will learn more about different aspects of social media and online tools which can save them time in their working day.

Run by social care charity Social Care Ideas Factory, the school is the first of its kind in Scotland, and the idea is that anyone will be able to teach a class and, equally, lessons are free to attend by all.

The school is running during a time when providers are looking to promote the work they do in communities and market themselves to potential service users in different and unique ways. And the hope is that by creating spaces where people can come and learn about subjects that are often in demand but not widely available to those who can't afford to pay, stronger, more involved communities will be built across Glasgow.

Trade School is now into its second term of classes and is going from strength to strength. The amount of interest that has been received from the public, social care providers and organisations such as Glasgow Community Safety Services, Glasgow Regeneration Agency and the NHS has really been phenomenal – both in terms of teaching and also attending classes – as for many organisations, night classes, training courses and workshops are luxuries that simply cannot be afforded. Therefore the idea of having classes that remove money from the equation has really captured their imaginations.

Trade School pupil Emma Grace Smith decided to attend the Speaking With Confidence class as a way of developing her own social skills:

The first task was to stand up and introduce myself which may seem straightforward, but for some people like myself it can be nerve-wracking,” she explained.

During the class, Emma learned about the best way to stand while speaking and gained tips and techniques which could help turn her into a good speaker – including making eye-contact, keeping the message simple and practising the presentation beforehand.

I was quite nervous at first, as I’m quite shy and don’t like speaking in front of strangers,” she said after her class. “However the two hours flew by. Everyone was really friendly and supportive and I ended up really enjoying myself!

Trade School teacher Dave Scott hosted two classes during Trade School Glasgow’s first term and he says that it has been a great success.

As the director of anti-sectarian charity Nil By Mouth, Dave ran a series of sessions aimed at teaching people more about sectarianism at the Scottish Youth Theatre in return for a sealed envelope containing an explanation about what sectarianism meant to each pupil.

He said: “We think Trade School is a fantastic idea. With voluntary organisations how often do you hear that money is a problem? But this is fantastic. You are taken care of, given great facilities to use and you have to use your own initiative.

It is a good way to meet different people and different folk who give us a different perspective on an issue such as sectarianism.

This is the future, it is not about people paying to come to conferences it’s actually people sitting in a room talking about things that matter to them, wanting to be there and swapping an experience.

Quite often you find when you are dealing with things in the voluntary sector people come up with a reason not to do things, Trade School is a reason to do it.

We have already signed up for February. We have had a lot of good feedback from our sessions.

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