Centenary Commission welcomes hard-hitting House of Commons Education Committee report

Centenary Commission leaders have welcomed an important and hard-hitting new report from the all-party House of Commons Education Committee.

Dame Helen Ghosh, Chair of the 2019 Centenary Commission on Adult Education, said:

‘I’m delighted that the House of Commons Education Select Committee’s important report echoes so many of our Centenary Commission recommendations.  Like us, they see an ambitious national strategy for adult education as the essential foundation for action, and the reintroduction of Individual Learning Accounts as the way to empower people to meet their individual needs at home and at work, throughout life.  Like us too they believe that communities must be at the heart of decision making,  recommending a community learning centre in every town. That needs in our view to be backed up with Community Learning Accounts so that local groups can identify and build their own provision.   And if we are to “build back” a better society post-COVID through lifelong-learning,  then significantly increased funding across the board is essential, to match the opportunity and the ambition”.

Professor John Holford, joint secretary to the Centenary Commission, who gave evidence to the Select Committee said:

‘The Select Committee’s call for a national strategy is spot on. Adult education brings massive benefits to individuals and communities, and the fall in provision and participation over the last decade has been a self-imposed catastrophe and a national disgrace.

‘We need to make sure our adult education provision enables us to meet the great challenges of our times. Our failures in the Covid19 pandemic show how we need a collective understanding of the crises and challenges that will confront us over the next few decades – economic recovery, climate change, migration, homelessness and poverty. Learning together throughout our lives, and as communities which think through problems carefully and collectively, is essential.

‘The Select Committee is right to point to many current failings. It is right to question whether the DfE “fully grasps the value and purpose of community learning”, to say that a “vision or strategic approach for boosting this vital area of lifelong learning” is lacking on the DfE’s part, and to call on the government to reverse its disastrous decision to end the Union Learning Fund. As it rightly says,  “Unless this decision is reversed, we will see the brakes put on workplace learning which will harm workers, employers and productivity.”

The Select Committee’s summary, with links to the report itself, is here. The committee refers to the 1919 Ministry of Reconstruction’s vision of adult education as ‘a permanent national necessity, an inseparable aspect of citizenship’ which should be ‘both universal and lifelong’. It adds: ‘Today, we believe an ambition on a similar scale is needed.’

Centenary Commission vice-chair Sir Alan Tuckett retires (again)

Sir Alan Tuckett, the Centenary Commission’s vice-chair (pictured above, with our chair, Dame Helen Ghosh) has just retired again – this time, as Professor of Education at the University of Wolverhampton. You can read a fascinating interview with him here.

Alan has, of course, retired before: most notably, from NIACE, the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education, which he led very successfully from 1988 until 2011. At NIACE, he famously started Adult Learners’ Week – which has now spread to over fifty countries. He also backed the Adult Participation in Learning survey.

Alan also has a wealth of committee experience – he was vice chair to Bob Fryer on Department the for Education & Employment advisory group that wrote the two “Fryer Reports” (1997 and 1999), and commissioned Tom Schuller and Sir David Watson’s Inquiry into the Future for Lifelong Learning (2009). He was also responsible for innumerable NIACE policy reports.

Fortunately, Alan continues to be an active advocate of adult education, and supporter of the Centenary Commission’s work.

New Media & Social Media campaign for 2021

In February 2021 the Centenary Commission on Adult Education will launch a media and social media campaign to highlight the pressing need for lifelong learning in the wake of Covid-19. We want your help, experiences, thoughts and stories so that we can make a powerful case for the sector – which is often overlooked both by policymakers and the media.

The campaign will focus on:

  • How adult education might best respond to the effects of Covid on elderly and vulnerable people who have been forced into isolation; on working-age people who may be on benefits for the first time in their lives; and on younger people who may benefit from playing a part in rebuilding our civic society through a range of community and development activities.
  • The positive stories of those who have worked throughout the pandemic – using adult education of whatever kind – to keep social connections going and to support and inspire vulnerable people, whether in person or online.
  • The key changes needed now in order to begin to rebuild, which the Commission believes are:
    • Adult Learning Partnerships combined with a National Adult Education Strategy;
    • A Minister appointed to help shape and drive that strategy;
    • Proper resourcing.

If you can offer any of the following, please get in touch:

  1. Positive stories of how people, especially vulnerable groups, have  been supported through adult learning and personal developments during the pandemic – either through their own grassroots efforts or through existing adult education institutions.
  2. Perhaps less positive stories of how such individuals may have become isolated over the past year, and of what they’ve had to face – what will they need in education/development terms, post-Covid, to help them get back out into their communities, rebuilding confidence and skills?
  3. Your thoughts about the current policy environment and how that plays into this agenda. How have national and local political decisions impacted your work over the past year?
  4. Anything else you consider particularly “newsworthy” about adult education in the current crisis.

If you would like to get involved, and particularly if you have human stories which you feel should reach a wider audience, please get in touch. We will be working on articles for a range of media outlets throughout January in preparation for a launch in February.

The first point of contact for responses is Fran Abrams, Chief Executive of the Education Media Centre (Fran.Abrams@educationmediacentre.org). Fran is working with Melissa Benn and Jonathan Petre in helping to publicise this initiative: all three are respected national education journalists with a wealth of experience in working with and in the media at all levels