From education to employment

Labour MP’s launch Adult Education campaign to bring back night schools

  • 61 MPs write to Apprenticeships and Skills Minister demanding publication of overdue adult education strategy
  • MPs call on government to bring back ‘Night Schools’ and evening classes for adults
  • Government’s 2016 Post-16 Skills Plan promised a ‘new approach’ to adult education and lifelong learning by end of 2016
  • Adult skills budget cut by over 40% in real terms since 2010 accordingly to the House of Commons Library figures

Today 61 MPs have written to the Apprenticeships and Skills Minister Robert Halfon MP demanding that the Government publish their overdue adult education strategy and invest in lifelong learning in the context of a skills gap that is “about to get a lot worse if we leave the Single Market”.

The letter follows an adjournment debate called by David Lammy MP on Friday 13th Jan. Quotes from Shadow Secretary of State for Education Angela Rayner MP, Shadow Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills Gordon Marsden MP and organisations in the sector are at the bottom of this email below the letter and signatories.

Letter in full:

Rt Hon Robert Halfon MP
Minister of State for Apprenticeships and Skills
Department for Education
Sanctuary Buildings, 20 Great Smith St

19th January 2017

Dear Robert

We are writing to you following the adjournment debate on Adult Education and the Future of Night Schools on Friday 13th January. We firmly believe that education does not end at 18 and as such we are pleased that the House had an opportunity to debate adult education. However, we are writing to gain further clarification on a number of issues.

Firstly, the Government’s Post-16 Skills Plan – a 60 page document – dedicates only a couple of short, insubstantial paragraphs to adult education that fail to set out a new approach, new investment or new ideas. The Plan includes a promise to “say more about” the Government’s “approach to lifetime learning for adults” at some point in 2016.

However, no further such approach or strategy has been forthcoming, and during your response on Friday 13th January you failed to confirm whether such an approach or strategy would be published and indeed when we can expect it to be published. As the Government Office for Science has warned, lifelong learning is an “urgent issue for public policy in the UK” – so when can we expect the Government’s strategy for adult education to be published?

We call on you to come up with a national strategy that works across departments in recognition of the huge range of beneficial outcomes that adult education has for individuals, our economy and society in general – not least in terms of employability and helping people return to work, but also in terms of tackling mental ill health and social exclusion.

Secondly, we recognise that the adult education budget has been frozen in cash terms, yet this will mean a cut in real terms and comes on the back of 40% cuts to the adult skills budget between 2010 and 2015 as well as 57% cuts in spending on the non-apprenticeships aspects of this budget. The number of adult learners fell by 10.8% in just a single year between 2014 and 2015, and the number of adults achieving Level 4 awards of above has fallen to just 3,900 – a staggering 75% fall in just two years.

You will be aware of the gaping skills gap that is holding back our economy. Skills shortages already account for a quarter of all job openings and the situation is about to get a lot worse if we leave the Single Market and businesses can no longer employ skilled workers from other European Union countries to plug their skills gaps.

Moreover, if 2016 taught us anything it is that we can no longer afford to ignore the people and communities who feel “left behind” – the parts of our country where many people feel trapped in low-income jobs with little prospect for change. We call on you to invest in adult education so that working class people can get the skills they need to access the growth sectors in our economy and to ensure that the proceeds of economic growth are felt across all parts of the country, particularly in communities outside of London and the South East.

When education and skills provision does not keep up with a changing economy and jobs market then inequality is exacerbated and it is those at the bottom who lose out most. We believe that all adults must have access to flexible, affordable and accessible education and training that will equip them for the modern jobs market and takes into account other commitments adults have as employees, parents and carers.

We look forward to hearing from you regarding the Government’s strategy for lifelong learning and plans for investing in our adult education system.

Yours sincerely


Rt Hon David Lammy MP

Angela Rayner MP, Shadow Education Secretary

Gordon Marsden MP, Shadow Further Education and Skills Minister

Chi Onwurah MP, Chair, All Party Parliamentary Group for Adult Education

Clive Lewis, Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Kate Osamor MP, Shadow Secretary of State for International Development

Rushanara Ali MP

Luciana Berger MP

Clive Betts MP

Tom Blenkinsop MP

Rt Hon Ben Bradshaw MP

Dawn Butler MP

Ruth Cadbury MP

Julie Cooper MP

Rosie Cooper MP

Stella Creasy MP

Judith Cummins MP

Jim Cunningham MP

Nic Dakin MP

Geraint Davies MP

Yvonne Fovargue MP

Gill Furniss MP

Mike Gapes MP

Roger Godsiff MP

Lilian Greenwood MP

Louise Haigh MP

Rt Hon Harriet Harman MP

Margaret Hodge MP

Sharon Hodgson MP

George Howarth MP

Dan Jarvis MP

Rt Hon Alan Johnson MP

Graham Jones MP

Helen Jones MP

Caroline Lucas MP

Fiona Mactaggart MP

Shabana Mahmood MP

Rob Marris MP

Rachael Maskell MP

Siobhain McDonagh

Liz McInnes MP

Catherine McKinnell MP

Melanie Onn MP

Daniel Poulter MP

Jess Phillips MP

Steve Reed MP

Marie Rimmer MP

Steve Rotheram MP

Joan Ryan MP

Naz Shah MP

Jim Shannon MP

Ruth Smeeth MP

Cat Smith MP

Jeff Smith MP

Karin Smyth MP

Wes Streeting MP

Rt Hon Stephen Timms MP

Derek Twigg MP

Catherine West MP

David Winnick MP

Daniel Zeichner MP


David Lammy MP said:

“My message is simple: bring back night schools. In the context of Brexit and a skills gap that will get much worse if we leave the Single Market this is now an issue that requires urgent attention. For far too long Parliament and Whitehall have been obsessed with young people getting into university or undertaking apprenticeships but education doesn’t end at 18 or 21. We need investment and we need a strategy for adult education and lifelong learning to respond to the challenges of a modern economy and a job market in which people will need to learn new skills throughout their working lives.

Shadow Secretary of State for Education Angela Rayner MP said:

“Adult education and lifelong learning play a vital role in helping people across Britain get the skills they need to change their careers. It is invaluable in making opportunities accessible and improving social mobility.

And as our economy and labour market change in the coming years, and the idea of having a job for life continues to become a thing of the past, the importance of adult education and lifelong learning will only increase.

It tells you everything you need to know about the Tories’ short sighted approach that they have cut the adult skills budget by over 40% since 2010. They will make it impossible for people to get the skills they need, and a failure to invest in skills will mean that we all lose out.”

Shadow Further Education and Skills Minister Gordon Marsden MP said:

“This letter underlines the consistent concerns our front-bench has been expressing over the past 18 months about the Government’s neglect and failures to support part-time and lifelong learning. Both the latest figures from the official Higher Education Statistics Agency showing a 5% drop in part-time enrolment from 2014/15 to 2015/16, and a 30% overall drop since 2011/12, and the issues raised in David Lammy’s excellent adjournment debate, highlight the need for the Government to respond urgently.”

Chi Onwurah MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Adult Education said:

“Our economy faces huge skills challenges both from Brexit and the rise of the on-demand economy. Life-long learning is the only way we can ensure we have the skills we need, and that working people can reskill for the jobs of the future.”

Ruth Spellman, Chief Executive of the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA), said:

“With the responsibility for adult education now back in the Department for Education, we have a once in a lifetime opportunity for a cradle-to-grave national learning strategy. Our compulsory education system still fails significant groups of young people, such as white working-class boys and looked-after children. In addition, there is a need for education to be available for all age groups to meet: the needs of the UK labour market, the demands of an ageing workforce and respond to technological advances.”


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