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.’