Photo of the graduates of our school of social housing, the Phoenix Academy in 2019
Photo of Marie Porter, named Outstanding Contributor at the Federation of Awarding Bodies Awards
Marie Porter
Tuesday 22nd October 2019 - 11:00

The award-winning school of social housing, the Phoenix Academy

“For the first session, we didn’t know how it’d go. We didn’t even know how many people would be there, but it just seemed to work. And each year it grew a little more as people spread the word.”

Marie Porter was with the Phoenix Academy from the very beginning.

Phoenix Community Housing’s school of social housing was set up in 2014 in the belief that residents ought to know how their money is spent.

Five years later – with the course recognised by the Chartered Institute of Housing, its expansion to Levels 2 and 3 courses, and around 180 people having graduated – both the Academy and its manager are award-winning.

On Thursday 10 October, Marie Porter was announced as Outstanding Contributor of the Year at the Federation of Awarding Bodies (FAB) Awards. And, within half an hour, the Phoenix Academy was named Best Training Scheme at the 24housing Awards.

We caught up with Marie to find out more.

  • Where do you even begin when setting up a ‘school of social housing’?

MP: When we decided to set up the Phoenix Academy, it was almost like an experiment.

We wanted to make sure it was something that would benefit people who took it. So it was to help them understand what Phoenix was spending their rent on but also to help them become more involved in the organisation.

Once we’d done a bit of research, it was clear that we needed to include the history of social housing as a subject – and we’ve seen that’s a really popular part of the Level 1 course. Ongoing development of the Academy has got us to were we are today.

  • And how did people react? When you asked people to get involved, what did they say?

MP: It wasn’t a hard sell at all. The Level 1 course, where it all started, was and still is taught by a mix of residents and staff and when we first spoke to the trainers to get them involved, they were as enthusiastic as we were and still are. It was great to see everyone involved develop their skills. 

Over the years, the courses have grown and the classes have grown – in 2019, we saw more than 40 people graduate with Level 1 and 2 qualifications. They’re Phoenix tenants and leaseholders, staff, and people from other housing organisations – people from a range of backgrounds interested in and passionate about social housing.

It was when we received accreditation from the Chartered Institute of Housing that we knew we were really onto something.

The Chartered Institute of Housing has been absolutely fantastic from day one. They’ve championed us the whole way and we’ve really appreciated their support.

  • How did it feel to win these two awards for the Phoenix Academy?

MP: I’m so proud of this project. Over the last few years, it’s become an award-winning, well-oiled and well-known machine that other organisations want to copy.

It’s changing lives. The Green Man is really something special, something that’s open and is different. I’m so pleased that people see Phoenix and the academy as an example of how to engage with and empower residents.

As for what happens next, I don’t know. We’re going to keep reaching even more people – and something new happens every year, so watch this space.

Be outstanding: sign-up for your 2020 course at the Phoenix Academy today. Contact us to find out more.