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For the first time in its 111 year history, the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) is launching a manifesto with key recommendations for the adult education sector. The move marks a return to the charity’s campaigning roots, with the aim of putting lifelong learning firmly back on the public agenda ahead of the 2015 General Election. 

We often focus on the educational outcomes of children and young people. However, with a UK adult skills shortage and an ageing population, ignoring the needs of older learners seems somewhat short-sighted. While we have seen positive signs of economic recovery in the last year, investment in human infrastructure continues to decline at an alarming rate, with the amount spent by businesses on training falling by £2.5 billion since 2011 according to the latest research from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills. By helping those who are unemployed to boost their skills and supporting development opportunities for those in work, adult education can help people progress into better paid and more secure work. 

Another key benefit of adult community learning is its intergenerational effect. A parent more confident in their own abilities may feel better equipped to provide greater guidance and support with their child’s studies. If education starts at home shouldn’t we take a more holistic approach? The WEA proposes that the government appoints a minister with lead responsibility for family learning to help change the lives of thousands of families caught in a cycle of deprivation. 

Ruth Spellman, WEA CEO, says: “Access to education throughout life is crucial to individuals, families, communities and workplaces. Community learning helps people reskill and offers a route back into education for those with few or no qualifications. I’ve seen the benefits of adult learning first-hand and it can make a real difference to our students and in some cases their families. Our recommendations stem from our experience and if implemented they could change many lives across Britain for the better.” 

The manifesto was launched at the WEA’s annual lecture hosted by Paralympic champion Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson. For the WEA’s full recommendations, please visit http://www.wea.org.uk/campaign


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