The Centenary Commission on Adult Education has welcomed the Government’s announcement on a Lifetime Skills Guarantee – but calls for the reform to go much further.

The Queen’s Speech (11 May 2021) announced that new laws on post-16 education and training will be central to the Government’s legislative programme for the next Parliamentary session. The government promises a training system ‘fit for the future, providing the skills that people need for well-paid jobs and opportunities to train throughout their lifetime.’

The Commission, which launched a Build Back Bolder campaign for lifelong learning in March, welcomed the news – but added that much more was needed.

Dame Helen Ghosh, Chair of the Commission, said: “Education for adults means so much more than ‘skills for jobs.’ For some, it means learning how to read and write, or use a computer. For others, adult education means learning a new language, mastering personal finance, understanding mental health better. It means engaging with others, exploring difficult topics together, and shaping communities through understanding and tolerance.  A long-term learning strategy for all adults is needed, properly funded and implemented.”

The Centenary Commission on Adult Education published its report in November 2019. In March this year it launched its Build Back Bolder campaign, backed by more than a hundred senior figures nationally, including seven former ministers from all political parties, 11 current and  former vice chancellors, the heads of nine Oxbridge colleges, a former head of the home civil service a former House of Commons speaker and almost every professor researching lifelong learning. The commission believes the Government’s promise of £2.5 billion over five years to fund a ‘skills revolution’ will do little to reverse a decade of deep cuts.

The Commission has called for a programme to ‘Build Back Bolder,’ with wide-ranging reforms which could include:

  • A community learning centre in every town;
  • Funds for community groups so they can shape their own learning;
  • a regional Adult Learning Partnership including local authorities, universities, colleges, voluntary groups, employers and trade unions.

Successful mayoral candidates among the 20 who gave their support to the Commission’s aims during their campaigns include London’s Sadiq Khan West Midlands’ Andy Street, Greater Manchester’s Andy Burnham, the West of England’s Metro Mayor Dan Norris, Doncaster’s Ros Jones, Liverpool City’s Joanne Anderson, and Cambridgeshire and Peterborough’s James Palmer.