When lockdown becomes a drag…

… do a course with the WEA!, says Gillian Evans

Retired nurse Gillian Evans has relished the opportunity to keep learning on Zoom during the pandemic.

The WEA allows me to catch up on areas of history and culture that I neglected during my working life. When I saw the course on the History of Drag with Caroline Baylis-Green, I quickly signed up. I’ve always been intrigued by drag. My father was into amateur dramatics and I wanted to know what makes these performers tick.

The Zoom sessions allowed us to interact with some drag artists, which was very exciting. I was nervous about joining. Would I be accepted in the group? What would they think of me wanting to find out more about them? Happily, everybody was extremely welcoming. Drag artists are quite self-opinionated people who care a lot about how they are seen. Besides, Zoom brings a degree of distance and protection – in the same way that a uniform gives you more confidence to ask questions you might not ask as ‘yourself’.

Caroline was excellent. She didn’t push anything very hard at first, but made us think a lot about what we were looking at. I previously thought drag was about men dressing up as women, like they did in Shakespeare’s day. But that was more necessity, as men had to play the female part. Today, drag has evolved into a real art form. It’s highly skilled, and it’s quite an expensive interest too. The makeup is absolutely exquisite. Their clothes and physiques are immaculate. The whole ethos of drag is a wonderful way of expressing how they’re feeling, which comes very much from within. You can’t make yourself do this unless it comes right from inside you.

Queens use drag as a leisure part of their normal lives – they are delightful folk spending a considerable amount of money on their clothes, make up, wigs and general presentation to bring the very best to their audiences.

I’ve always been interested in computers and tried to keep up to date, so the transition to Zoom was straightforward. I was able to continue to volunteer at a local hospice, which got me out the front door and gave me a link to my past career. But as lockdown has continued, so the incarceration has become more of a dirge for me and my friends. The physical interaction of a coffee morning is hard to replace.

The WEA has helped enormously. They really pulled their finger out, right at the start, and put on a mass of courses across the board, which has given us something to hold onto. I’ve appreciated their support immensely.

Further Education & Skills: a place-based response to Covid

In this blog, Julie Nugent and Clare Hatton explain the West Midlands Combined Authority’s skills and adult learning response to the pandemic.

When Coronavirus hit in March 2020 it presented our region, like others across the country, with new social and economic challenges. Research suggested that the West Midlands could be the hardest-hit region – and indeed we have seen levels of unemployment spike.

Disadvantaged residents, young people and BAME communities have suffered the most. We have also seen an unprecedented surge in the number of adults requiring retraining and upskilling as they navigate a new job market during, and post Covid-19. 

A solid foundation

Yet we feel we were well prepared to respond to the crisis. At the start of the 2019/20 academic year, the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) took ownership of the £126 million Adult Education Budget (AEB) for the West Midlands. This was in an effort to align skills delivery with the wider economic strategy for the region, ensuring more people were able to get into jobs, had accessible opportunities to build skills, and could develop career opportunities through strong and inclusive further education (FE) and skills provision.

While the impact of the pandemic is far from over, we have been able to adapt swiftly to become flexible and receptive to the challenges we face. Our recovery plans involved working closely with employers, businesses, governmental bodies, charities, and educators to monitor the landscape and stay ahead of the curve. Doing this has allowed us to create and tailor programmes that provide the right level of training, across key sectors, to help get people back into employment as quickly as possible.


The West Midlands is the largest regional economy in the UK, with a labour market of national significance. Yet as a region, it faces challenges in relation to high levels of unemployment, low productivity, a shortage of skills and limited social mobility. However, recognising the need for greater insight to identify the causes and address these issues, at the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), we set out in 2019 to deliver a better match between the skills of the people in the region and the current and future needs of businesses, to accelerate productivity and deliver economic growth.

It wasn’t long before our strategy was showing real promise. By the end of 2019, the employment rate in the region was at a record high, with 75.5 per cent (2.82 million) of people in work. Productivity was improving at a faster rate than the national average, and the working age population was more qualified than ever before. The training funded through the WMCA was delivering even more economic impact for the region with provision increasingly focused on getting people into jobs, on delivering higher level skills and developing our pilot programmes alongside employers, providers and job centres to ensure courses equipped people with the skills they needed to fill their recruitment gaps.

Our WMCA regional skills plan has been central to this success; understanding the needs of the region, forming partnerships and adding value were central to driving this meaningful and lasting change. As part of this, we have worked closely alongside various key stakeholders including Local Authorities, Local Enterprise Partnerships, TUC, Colleges, Universities, training providers, Adult and Community Learning organisations and the voluntary sector, to build on the work they are already undertaking and create robust, and high-quality education and training for the diverse communities we serve. We have also forged strong employer relationships to identify the skills needed to help them grow and thrive both now and, in the future, and ensure we have provision that is fit for purpose and gets people into jobs.

Dealing with the pandemic

For example, we know there are recruitment and skills shortages in construction, advanced manufacturing and engineering, business, and professional services as well as digital skills. Therefore, we have been focusing on these areas to match the demand with the newly acquired skills gained by those seeking employment and retraining.  

The WMCA currently spends around 72 per cent of its adult education budget on unemployed adults, with a large portion of this attributed to basic level English and maths training. However, assessing recent events and the needs emerging from this crisis, we now have a mixed pool of adults and skilled professionals looking for new jobs or wanting to start their own businesses. Therefore, in the absence of any additional funding, we have adapted our FE provision needs to meet these new demands and provide accessible, engaging and skill-appropriate content.

When allocating the AEB, we need to be fluid with our funding to meet the demands of the local economy and react accordingly to the ever-changing landscape. For us, this has meant working closely with colleges and businesses to identify the provision needed and provide the most suitable training to fill the employment gaps. This doesn’t just span sector-based skills either, but also includes accessible training for workplace wellbeing, in order to support the wider employee health and wellbeing agenda and help employers with productivity and engagement levels.  

Covid-19 has also impacted the way training is delivered, and we have seen a greater shift to online delivery and blended learning options to provide a greater access to skills. We have also created new training opportunities through our free sector work-based programmes which provide a clear roadmap to help people get back on track, particularly if they are unemployed, have been furloughed or are worried about their current employment prospects.

Our Construction Gateway programme provides formal, job entry construction training through both online provision and practical onsite experience with Tier 1 employers and their supply chain. It has so far helped over 2,000 residents over two years, with over 50 per cent of those securing skilled career opportunities within a matter of weeks of completion. Since Covid-19, we have had to adapt the programme and shift to online training which has not only provided a bridge for people to build skills and experience without having to physically be on-site or in the classroom, but also presented a timely opportunity for the construction workforce to continue adapting to new ways of working. For example, new technological developments, such as GPS machine controls, are entering the construction industry – demonstrating a need for workers to continually evolve with the sector regardless of Covid-19.

Our community learning providers have risen to the challenge of supporting people with the skills they need to prepare them for work but also for life – digital skills so they can access services and support children with home schooling and wrap around support to ensure people remain connected to support their mental health. Keeping communities and residents engaged in learning through the pandemic is critical to ensure they are supported with their goals.

Looking ahead

Further education is critical in safeguarding the region’s employment opportunities and supporting our economic recovery, providing people with the training and skills required to thrive in the workplace. Crucial to this success has been our investment and commitment into a place-based approach to FE and skills, working closely alongside employers to deliver exactly what they need, while adapting to the changing landscape. By working together and reacting swiftly and effectively to regional demands and a diverse audience, we believe we have a clear roadmap to navigate the pandemic, reboot our economy and accelerate growth in key sectors.

Dr Julie Nugent is Director of Skills and Productivity at the West Midlands Combined Authority. She has held a range of senior roles across government and further education, with particular expertise in financing further education, having developed new funding systems for the Skills Funding Agency and the Learning and Skills Council. Julie has worked in the Black Country and in Birmingham – strengthening her understanding of skills in improving economic competitiveness and people’s life chances. Recently Julie led on the West Midlands negotiations with Government securing the first Skills Deal in the country with additional investment of £100 million to develop the region’s skills.

Clare Hatton is Head of Skills Delivery at the West Midlands Combined Authority, leading on the delivery of the WMCA’s skills portfolio. This includes the recently-devolved £130m Adult Education Budget and a range of pilot initiatives including digital retraining, and employment support pilots.  She works with regional partners to shape support for skills and employment aligned to priority growth sectors, particularly those targeted through the Local Industrial Strategy, driving up skill levels to secure sustainable employment, enhance skills and improve productivity. Previously, Clare worked for the Learning and Skills Council in senior policy roles, for PWC in their public sector practice supporting a range of national and government clients, and spent four years working in the senior leadership team at City College Coventry.

Adult education & innovation

On 13th March 2021, The Economist published a letter from Professor Jonathan Michie, Centenary Commission joint secretary, in response to its leader (‘How to make sparks fly’, 27th February 27th – published online as ‘Lessons from Britain’s pandemic on promoting innovation‘). The Economist‘s content is behind a paywall. This is the text of Jonathan’s letter:

Your ingredients for innovation include “good education” (“How to make sparks fly”, February 27th). Quite so. “Good” should mean broad based, crossing disciplinary ranges, and lifelong. This needs stressing, as governments too often take a narrow view, emphasising skills training, STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), and education ending at age 18 or 21. When Britain faced its ultimate STEM-based challenge, breaking the Nazi codes at Bletchley, which included developing the world’s first digital programmable computer, researchers were recruited from across the disciplinary spectrum.

In 1919 the British Ministry of Reconstruction’s report on adult education urged “good education” so that the newly extended electorate could think critically and weigh evidence. It also had the foresight to warn that unknown industries and technologies were on the horizon, so it was no use just training workers for today’s skills. A workforce had to have the capabilities to make the most of new technologies as they emerged.

The Bank of England’s chief economist argued 100 years later, in a centenary report on adult education, that “the education system of tomorrow needs to span the generational spectrum—young to old—and the skills spectrum—cognitive to vocational to interpersonal.”

Professor of innovation and knowledge exchange
University of Oxford

A New Passion for Lifelong Learning?

Calls for a new movement to persuade Government to put adult education at the heart of its plans to rebuild were heard last night at the second of the Centenary Commission’s ‘Build Back Bolder’ campaign launch gatherings.

The gathering was chaired by the former House of Commons Speaker John Bercow and the panellists were Lord (Karan) Bilimoria, President of the Confederation of British Industry, Robert Halfon, MP, Chair of the House of Commons Education Committee, Sir Alan Tuckett, Vice Chair of the Centenary Commission on Adult Education and former Chief Executive of the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education, and Baroness (Alison) Wolf, Sir Roy Griffiths Professor of Public Sector Management, Kings College, London and advisor to the Prime Minister on Further Education policy.

Baroness Wolf said there had been a ‘disappearance’ of broad adult education under successive Governments:

“I have to say it’s not just this Government,” she said. But all governments needed to address the need for lifelong learning as opposed to training: “It’s all very well to get rich, what are you getting rich for? So you  train in order to get rich, in order to pay more taxes, to train to get richer. At what point do you actually use any of this to do stuff that makes you into a better and more rounded human being?

“Obviously people have to have good jobs. We have to make the economy prosperous. But what about education? Should we be thinking about it more specifically?” she asked.

Long-term decline

Robert Halfon said participation in adult education had fallen to its lowest level in 23 years, with 38 per cent of adults not participating in any learning since leaving full-time education. That rose to almost half of the poorest in society, he said.

“The fourth Industrial Revolution may represent opportunities, but only if people are trained and reskilled now,” he said. “Of course the Government is doing some good things -the Skills for Jobs White Paper, the Lifetime Skills guarantee. But what we do need is an ambitious long-term funding settlement for adult education, and what I’d like to see and am passionate about is a Community Learning Centre in every town.”

Lord Bilimoria said the CBI had welcomed the Prime Minister’s initiatives to solve urgent skills challenges which had arisen in the pandemic, but more needed to be done.  

“Nine out of ten employees will need to reskill by 2030 at an additional cost of £13 billion, and Covid of course is accelerating the change in the way we work. We must use this momentum to drive a national rescaling effort,” he said.

Sir Alan Tuckett said a major issue was the top-down approach of Governments to adult education:

“Why does the Government want to limit it to those courses if approves?” he asked.  “People need to do that for themselves. Time after time we are told employers should be at the heart of the new strategy – my feeling is we’ve done that year after year. So what I want to see is a national strategy, locally determined,” he said.

John Bercow said all the speakers had displayed a passion for the topic, and that should be harnessed.

“I have felt that these webinars this week have been infused with a passion for an adult education and lifelong learning renaissance in this country. Transforming the immediate sense of excitement into something that is durable, tangible and effective requires statecraft, allocation of resources and considerable persistence, so there is a long way to go. But I hope that people who have taken part have felt genuinely energized by the experience.

“In the name both of upskilling and more importantly of human enrichment it is something that should endure and be a resonant feature of our lives, from cradle to grave,” he said.

You can watch the webinar here.

Build Back Bolder campaign launch: senior figures call for a new approach

Adult education must be pushed up the political agenda so it cannot be ignored, the former House of Commons Speaker John Bercow said last night at the launch event of the Centenary Commission’s Build Back Bolder campaign.

Chairing a webinar with the Commission’s chair Dame Helen Ghosh, former Secretary of State for Education David Blunkett, Oxford historian Professor Selina Todd and Helen Chicot, who spearheaded innovative approaches to lifelong learning in Rochdale, Mr Bercow said the panel had displayed a shared sense of passion on the issue.

“Whatever your politics I get a sense that there is a very proper impatience to better; a  mission to ensure a kind of crystallization of ideas about where we go next,” he said.

“I think we all feel very strongly about it.  I always think that you have to catapult a thing from the back of a decision-makers mind to the front of her or his mind and keep it there, “ he said.

Dame Helen Ghosh said there was great resonance between today’s issues and those facing the original Commission on Adult Education in 1919.

“ The 1919 report was a wonderful thing: It had in it the words we used for our title:  that adult education was a ‘permanent national necessity and an essential aspect of citizenship -universal and lifelong. Both the Brexit debate and now the pandemic have shown we live in a society sadly full of inequalities, and people who have been left behind. So every citizen needs to be engaged,” she said.

Taking control of lives

Lord Blunkett said that for many people lifelong learning was not a second chance, but a first chance: “Being able to take control of their own lives when technological change has overcome them, the ability to cope with rapid social and cultural change, makes adult learning absolutely crucial.

“ I’m afraid adult learning has taken a hell of a hit – between 2001 and 2011, 14 million people took up life skills or basic skills, often just learning to read and to write and to add up: the literacy part of that was the most successful. It dropped by a half from 2016 to last year with the pandemic,” he said. “We’ve never needed as we need it today the ability of people to be able to adapt to new circumstances to find that they have talent; the ability of people to be able to see that they have new opportunities as old ones disappear,” he said.

Professor Todd said that on International Women’s Day the need to make women’s education a priority should be a focus.

“In the early 1960s the Robbins report pointed out that in an advanced society we should want everyone to have an advanced education,” she said. “That’s never been truer than today: to get through this crisis, to get through the climate emergency, to work out how we negotiate with automation, we need new solutions and new people at the top,” she said.

Learning to trust

Helen Chicot said Rochdale’s experience in the last year had been instructive:

“We’ve had more time in lockdown than anywhere else, and the relationship between communities and institutions has changed for the better,” she said.  “Complete clarity of purpose in our communities has meant that we’ve learned to trust each other. Learning is such an important part of cohesion and reducing inequality, and clearly that’s a complex issue.

“Trust – being able to go to a class, to a safe space where we can become confident in what we know and share that with others – that’s why learning is important now for adults. if we’re lucky we can be confident  that we can start to take those steps, and we know who we can ask for help. if we’re really lucky someone helps us to take action to find out how to do those things – because as things currently stand it’s only if we’re lucky that we can learn,” she said.

You can watch the webinar here. The webinar was supported by the University of Nottingham Policy Engagement Fund. A second webinar will take place on Wednesday March 10 – for more details click here: https://www.tickettailor.com/events/educationmediacentre/489908

Watch John Bercow’s first webinar with David Blunkett, Helen Chicot, Helen Ghosh & Selina Todd

On International Women’s Day, 8 March 2021, former Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow chaired a fascinating discussion on Why do we need adult education now? with Lord (David) Blunkett, former Secretary of State for Education & Home Secretary, Helen Chicot, Place Integration Lead at Rochdale Borough Council, Dame Helen Ghosh, Chair of the Centenary Commission on Adult Education and Master of Balliol College, Oxford, and Professor Selina Todd, Professor of Modern History at Oxford University and author of Snakes and Ladders: The great British social mobility myth. You can watch and listen to a recording here.

Centenary Commission chair quoted in Mail Online

In the Mail Online, Dame Helen Ghosh comments on what she calls ‘worrying figures’ which show ‘the extent of education inequalities in our country’. ‘As we emerge from the pandemic,’ she urged government ‘to rebuild lifelong learning as a key part of their commitment to levelling up’.

Read ‘One fifth of adults in the country’s ‘education blackspots’ have NO academic qualifications, figures reveal’ (8 March 2021) here.

Letter to The Daily Telegraph on Adult Education & Lifelong Learning

On 8 March 2021 The Daily Telegraph publishes a letter from leading figures in public life, culture and education on the importance of adult and lifelong learning. Signatories include former cabinet ministers and ministers of education, university vice chancellors, leaders of adult and further education, heads of Oxford and Cambridge colleges, most university professors who research adult learning, and leading trade unionists. For reasons of space The Daily Telegraph could not print all the 137 signatories; they are listed below.

As schools and colleges return, we must not neglect the millions of adults whose lives have been upended by the pandemic.
The government’s ‘skills revolution’ is valuable, but only a start.
We need skills for life, not just ‘skills for jobs’.
Broad and flexible adult education builds community, strengthens mental health, and helps people lead fulfilling lives.
Nine million adults in England still struggle even with the essential skills of reading, writing, and computing.
We urgently call for: a properly funded national strategy led by a dedicated lifelong learning minister; a community learning centre in every town; money for individuals and groups to shape their own learning; new regional partnerships between local and regional authorities, voluntary groups, universities and FE colleges; restoration of the Union Learning Fund; and requiring universities to provide adult education in their communities.
Post-pandemic investment in wider adult education will pay real dividends. No-one must be left behind.

Dame Helen Ghosh, Chair of the Centenary Commission on Adult Education; Master of Balliol College, Oxford
Sir Alan Tuckett, Vice-Chair of the Centenary Commission; former Chief Executive of the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education

Other signatories are:

Former Members of the Cabinet and Education ministers:
Lord (David) Blunkett, former Secretary of State for Education & Employment
Lord Boswell of Aynho, former Conservative MP and Education Minister;
Baroness (Virginia) Bottomley, Chancellor University of Hull; former Secretary of State for Health and for National Heritage;
Sir Vince Cable, former Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills;
Lord (Jim) Knight of Weymouth, former Minister of State for Education and Skills;
Baroness (Estelle) Morris, former Secretary of State for Education;
Lord (Chris) Smith, Master of Pembroke College, Cambridge and former Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport;
Baroness (Ann) Taylor, former Leader of the House of Commons and Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee.

Other leading politicians:
Lord (Neil) Kinnock, former WEA Tutor/Organiser, Leader of the Opposition and European Commissioner
John Bercow, former Speaker of the House of Commons
Daisy Cooper, MP, Liberal Democrat spokesperson on Education
Baroness (Sue) Garden of Frognal, Liberal Democrat spokesperson on Further & Higher Education, House of Lords
Margaret Greenwood, MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Adult Education
Paul Blomfield, MP for Sheffield Central
Ian Mearns, MP for Gateshead, member of House of Commons Education Select Committee
Baroness (Julie) Smith of Newnham, Fellow of Robinson College, Cambridge
Lord (Mike) Storey, Liberal Democrat House of Lords spokesperson on Education
Gordon Marsden, former Shadow Minister for Higher & Further Education and Skills

Former leading civil servants:
Lord (Bob) Kerslake, former Head of the Home Civil Service
Dame Helen Ghosh, former Permanent Secretary at the Home Office

Mayors and officials of regional Combined Authorities:
Dan Jarvis, MP, Mayor of Sheffield City Region;
Jamie Driscoll, Mayor, North of Tyne Combined Authority;
Julie Nugent, Director of Productivity and Skills, West Midlands Combined Authority.

Vice Chancellors and former vice chancellors:
Professor Tim Blackman, Vice-Chancellor, The Open University
Professor Professor Jackie Dunne, Vice-Chancellor, Newman University, Birmingham
Professor David Latchman, Vice Chancellor, Birkbeck University of London
Professor Geoff Layer, Vice-Chancellor, University of Wolverhampton
Rev. Canon Professor Peter Neil, Vice-Chancellor, Bishop Grossteste University, Lincoln
Professor Sir Rick Trainor, Rector, Exeter College, Oxford; former President of King’s College London and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Greenwich
Sir Chris Husbands, Vice-Chancellor, Sheffield Hallam University
Professor Rama Thirunamachandran, Vice-Chancellor & Principal, Canterbury Christ Church University;
Sir Peter Scott, former Vice-Chancellor, Kingston University and Editor, The Times Higher Education Supplement
Sir Anthony Seldon, former Vice-Chancellor, University of Buckingham
Mary Stuart, Vice-Chancellor, University of Lincoln

Heads and former heads of Oxford and Cambridge colleges:
Dame Helen Ghosh, Master of Balliol College, Oxford and Chair of the Centenary Commission on Adult Education
Will Hutton, journalist; former Principal, Hertford College, Oxford
Baroness (Helena) Kennedy, QC, author of seminal report on Further Education, Learning Works, former Principal of Mansfield College, Oxford
Professor Jonathan Michie, President of Kellogg College, Oxford and Chair, Universities Association for Lifelong Learning
Dr Alice Prochaska, former Principal, Somerville College Oxford
Professor Sir Rick Trainor, Rector, Exeter College, Oxford
Baroness (Jan) Royall, PC, Principal of Somerville College, Oxford
Lord (Chris) Smith, Master of Pembroke College, Cambridge and former Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Other Higher Education leaders:
Baroness (Joan) Bakewell, DBE, President, Birkbeck University of London
Mary Curnock Cook, CBE, former Chief Executive of UCAS
Tim Melville-Ross, CBE, former Chair, Higher Education Funding Council for England
Paul Manners, Director, National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement
Professor Graeme Atherton, Director, National Education Opportunities Network (NEON)

Leaders of Adult and Further Education:  
David Hughes, Chief Executive, Association of Colleges
Simon Parkinson, CEO and General Secretary, WEA
Dr Susan Pember, CBE, Director of Policy, Holex, the professional body for Adult Community Education and Learning
Dame Ruth Silver, President, Further Education Trust for Leadership, former Principal of Lewisham College
Stephen Evans, Chief Executive, Learning & Work Institute
Liz Bromley, Chief Executive, NCG, one of UK’s largest FE college groups
Kirstie Donnelly, MBE, Chief Executive, City & Guilds Group
Mark Malcomson, CBE, Principal and Chief Executive, The City Lit, London Yultan Mellor, Principal, Northern College of Adult Education, Barnsley
Mel Lenehan, Principal, Fircroft College of Adult Education, Birmingham
Ros Morpeth, OBE, Chief Executive, National Extension College
Dr Cilla Ross, Principal, Co-operative College
Andrew Cropley, Principal and Chief Executive, Vision West Nottinghamshire College
Helen Hammond, Principal, Working Men’s College, London
Paul di Felice, Principal, Ruskin College, Oxford
Gabrielle Flint, Principal, Richmond & Hillcroft Adult & Community College
Dr Andrew Gower, Principal & Chief Executive, Morley College, London
Dr Rob Hindle, Senior Area Education Manager, Yorkshire and Humberside Region WEA
Suzanna Jackson, Warden, Mary Ward Settlement, London
Dame Moira Gibb, Chair of Governors, The City Lit.
Jol Miskin, adult educator; former Regional Education Manager, WEA
Ruth Spellman, OBE, former General Secretary, WEA
Nigel Todd, Chair of Trustees, The Co-operative College
Professor Sir Alan Tuckett, Vice-Chair of the Centenary Commission, former CEO of NIACE
Matt Waddup, Co-founder, Right2Learn campaign
Jill Westerman, CBE, Vice Chair, Further Education Trust for Leadership, former Principal of Northern College, Governor of the City Lit.

Public figures and opinion leaders:
Baroness (Joan) Bakewell, DBE, President, Birkbeck University of London
Helen Barnard, Director, Joseph Rowntree Foundation
Dr Sharon Clancy, Chair, Raymond Williams Foundation
Rod Clark, Chief Executive, Prisoners’ Education Trust
Sir Jon Coles, Group Chief Executive,United Learning Trust
Uzo Iwobi, OBE, Chief Executive, Race Council Cymru
Judith Judd, Former Editor, The Times Educational Supplement
Grayson Perry, CBE, RA, artist
His Honour John Samuels, QC, President, Prisoners’ Education Trust
Philippa Perry, psychotherapist and author
Professor Anna Vignoles, CBE, FBA, Director, Leverhulme Trust (in a personal capacity).

Trade Union leaders:
Frances O’Grady, General Secretary, Trades Union Congress
Lord (John) Monks, former General Secretary, Trades Union Congress
Roz Foyer, General Secretary, Scottish Trades Union Congress
Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary, National Education Union
Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary, National Education Union
Dr Jo Grady, General Secretary, University and College Union
Doug Nicholls, General Secretary, General Federation of Trade Unions
Dave Ward, General Secretary, Communication Workers’ Union
Sarah Woolley, General Secretary, Bakers, Food and Allied Workers’ Union
Kate Dearden, Head of Research, Policy & External Relations, Community the Union
Kate Hudson, Head of Equality, Education & Development, Communication Workers Union
Deborah Lawson, Assistant General Secretary, Community union
Roger McKenzie, Assistant General Secretary, Unison
Jim Mowatt, Director of Education, Unite the union
Tom Wilson, former Director of Unionlearn

Leading academics and researchers on adult learning:
Ann-Marie Bathmaker, Professor of Vocational & Higher Education, University of Birmingham
David Barton, Emeritus Professor of Language and Literacy, Lancaster University
Greg Brooks, Emeritus Professor of Education, University of Sheffield
Ellen Boeren, Professor of Adult Education, University of Glasgow
Lalage Bown, OBE, Emeritus Professor of Adult Education, University of Glasgow
John Bynner, Emeritus Professor of Social Sciences in Education, UCL
Claire Callender, OBE, Professor of Higher Education, Birkbeck & UCL
Frank Coffield, Emeritus Professor of Education, UCL
Diane Coyle, Bennett Professor of Public Policy, University of Cambridge
Danny Dorling, Halford Mackinder Professor of Geography, University of Oxford; Vicky Duckworth, Professor of Education, Edge Hill University; Karen Evans, Emeritus Professor of Education, UCL
John Field, Professor Emeritus of Lifelong Learning, University of Stirling
Alan Felstead, Research Professor, School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University
Alison Fuller, Professor of Vocational Education and Work, UCL
Andy Green, Professor of Comparative Social Science, UCL
Francis Green, Professor of Work and Education Economics, UCL
Mary Hamilton, Professor Emerita of Adult Learning and Literacy, Lancaster University
John Holford, Robert Peers Professor of Adult Education, University of Nottingham
David James, Professor of Sociology of Education, University of Cardiff
Hugh Lauder, Professor of Education and Political Economy, University of Bath
Professor Ewart Keep, Emeritus Professor of Education, Training and Skills, University of Oxford
Lorna Unwin, OBE, Professor Emerita of Vocational Education, UCL
Dr Melissa Highton, Assistant Principal for Online Learning, University of Edinburgh
Simon McGrath, UNESCO Professor of International Education & Development, University of Nottingham
Michael Osborne, Professor of Adult and Lifelong Learning, University of Glasgow
Gemma Moss, Professor of Literacy, UCL
Diane Reay, Emeritus Professor of Education, University of Cambridge
Sheila Riddell, Professor of Inclusion and Diversity, University of Edinburgh
Susan Robertson, Professor of Education, University of Cambridge
Professor Tom Schuller, formerly Head of the Centre for Educational Research and Innovation, OECD and Director, National Inquiry into the Future of Lifelong Learning (2008-2010)
Rob Smith, Professor of Education, Birmingham City University
Linden West, Professor of Education, Canterbury Christ Church University
Tom Sperlinger, Professor of Literature and Academic Lead for Engagement for the Temple Quarter Enterprise Campus, University of Bristol
Howard Stevenson, Professor of Education, University of Nottingham
Richard Taylor, former Professor and Director of Continuing Education and Lifelong Learning at Cambridge and Leeds Universities
Lyn Tett, Professor Emerita of Community Education, University of Huddersfield
Professor Maria Slowey, Director, Higher Education Research Centre, Dublin City University
Selina Todd, Professor of Modern History, University of Oxford
Professor Sue Webb, former Director of Lifelong Learning, University of Sheffield
Volker Wedekind, Professor of Vocational Education, University of Nottingham
Miriam Zukas, Professor Emerita and former Executive Dean, Birkbeck, University of London