It is this principle upon which the @Right2_Learn campaign was founded.  Our long-term vision is clear, but we wanted to provide practical assistance in the here and now to politicians and policy makers as they grapple with the biggest social and economic challenges in a generation.

So, at Christmas 2020, we began a consultation with our supporters on what principles they felt should underpin government policy with the aim of enabling us to constructively judge newly announced proposals.

The consultation produced five themes:

  1. break down barriers
  2. integrate and coordinate
  3. devolve and empower
  4. tackle inequality and meet community needs
  5. invest and promote.


1. Break down barriers

Our supporters want an end to the silos that dominate education. The need to learn is lifelong and the demand from users is for seamless access to learning opportunities. Yet the contrasting approaches adopted by policymakers where delivering schooling, further and higher education are concerned create a chaotic and often incoherent offer which is not well understood by those who need it most.

We await with keen interest the much-vaunted Further Education (FE) White Paper from the Westminster government. However, what we really need is something far bigger and transformational.  It is essential that additional resources are provided for FE.

These resources need to be genuinely additional – not funds already announced or allocated. But to realise the full potential of FE, a vision of a coherent lifelong education system is needed that connects it with schools, universities, adult learning institutes and continuing education units – a dynamic and responsive lifelong learning infrastructure for the post-Covid world.

A new national, lifelong learning strategy is required founded on parity of esteem, opportunities and approaches to funding.

2. Integrate and coordinate

A key theme of the responses was the role of government in encouraging the coordination of lifelong learning across the whole range of public services including the education sector.

Our supporters believe that as the primary funder of public services, the government is uniquely placed to take direct steps to build this integrated offer. In order to perform this role the barriers between the Department of Education and other ministries need to be broken down.

A straightforward way of integrating lifelong learning across education, health, welfare and other services would be to make funding and accreditation from the taxpayer conditional upon cooperative participation in a local lifelong learning offer. Such an offer would be strengthened if local authorities were given the primary role in coordinating and promoting it.

3. Devolve and empower

The stark lesson for policymakers of COVID-19 is that an overly centralised approach which overrides the views of local communities and ignores their expertise will stutter or fail. This has been seen in the responses to directly tackling the virus and also addressing effectively its myriad consequences.

Our supporters see a key role for government in clearly setting the terms of national policy, incentivising and encouraging publicly funded institutions to cooperate with each other and to engage effectively in facilitating lifelong learning. BUT we believe it is for local communities to deliver the strategy in a way which is democratically accountable and focused upon both immediate and long-term needs.

High quality learning opportunities should be present where they are most needed and where they will make most difference but also organised and shaped at this level. This approach will mean more localised investment, not less as some proponents of devolution suggest.

4. Tackle inequality and meet community needs

It is a given for our supporters that education policy should start from meeting the needs of the communities it serves. The pandemic has illustrated how these needs differ. From spiralling youth unemployment, to threats to major sectors such as aviation and small businesses across the country, a devolved and integrated approach is the only way that these differing needs can be met.

Serving the community means not privileging private schools or the educational needs of one class over another. Across communities we know access to learning is profoundly unequal. Those with the fewest initial qualifications are inevitably always those who face the toughest barriers to reconnecting with learning. The pandemic will only deepen these inequalities.

Providing localised, accessible opportunities that are supported by employers and the state is essential. Those who find it hardest to engage need the economic security to be able to make the steps back into learning. Providing learning that is free at the point of use or loans to enable participation is not enough here. Potential learners who have been disenfranchised by the system have to be certain that participating in learning will not jeopardise their job or source of income.

They also need to be listened to, in order to shape their learning, and given the means of accessing higher education or apprenticeship, through fair and transparent admission systems.

5. Invest and promote

Our supporters recognise the uniqueness of the situation now facing the UK. There is much rhetoric about the need to ensure the future is fairer and that there is ‘levelling up’ . However, it is impossible to see how this can be achieved without greater investment. Right2Learn emphatically rejects the idea that simply redistributing existing resources, from HE to FE for example, is the solution. We believe the central problem our society has is that millions of people are shut out from a right to learn and prevented from fulfilling their potential.

Focusing additional investment effectively, means supporting new mechanisms for learners to engage flexibly with education and training. Would be learners need to be able to have chances, in the globalised and digital 21st century, to reskill for new careers and their futures, not simply to satisfy the existing requirements of their current employers. There are models and frameworks in place that could provide the strategies to accommodate this, for example most notably in the credit transfer and accumulation formats of the Open University.

Any new investment will not bring dividends though unless there is also major investment in a comprehensive, national Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG) service which is closely integrated with local advice services based in the communities they serve. Here, as in the other themes and priorities already laid out, the principles of subsidiarity and progression should be respected. Micro-management from Whitehall or government will not bring the transformation needed to create a nation of lifelong learners.

We need a different vision of how learning benefits - Dr Graeme Atherton speaks to FE News about the Lifelong Learning Commission

Talking to FE News at the 2019 Labour Party Conference, Dr Graeme Atherton, Director, National Education Opportunities Network, shared his thoughts on the Lifelong Learning Commission and where its priorities should lie:

Why do we need a Lifelong Learning Commission?

Well, I think what we've seen, not just in the past 10 years, but the past 30 years really is that Lifelong Learning has not advanced in this country as it needs to.

The ideas that we have around “what learning is” need to change.

We need really a step change in how we will prepare ourselves for a different society in the 21st century, not just economically, but socially as well.

A commission that brings together those who have ideas in this area, who can change and have influence, will I think hopefully try and reset what we understand learning to be. I think that's the function role of a commission like this.

Transforming our adult education system

I think what the commission needs to do is put in place the necessary arguments, and necessary positions in their report that can reframe learning from being something that is primarily economic in terms of benefits to social, which includes economic as well.

We need to reframe learning so that what we see as the benefits of learning are promoting wellbeing and advancement in society for all people, and not just the economic progression of some people.

I think it’s that overall reframing that's really important. Once we get that different vision of learning right, behind that the policies will follow. Most important thing the commission can do, in my view, is really to push those ideas forward.

What we see in the past is commissions that have really remained in that position, where they see the value of learning as being primarily economic, but also on the side social benefits and social values as well.

To live in the 21st century, there's some really big challenges you have to confront about not just what the purpose of learning is, but what the purpose of our society is. You see challenges in climate change, challenges in automation.

Learning has to be part of the solution to those challenges, but it won't be if we keep adult learning particularly, in that narrow frame of just economic benefit.

The commission needs really to push forward those different sorts of ideas, if it doesn't start with those ideas it won't get the sort of policies behind them we all need.

We talk a lot about the need for greater funding for further education and greater funding for adult learning, but fundamentally, the problems in that funding are if the purposes of that kind of learning are not those recognised by policy makers.

Therefore, when it comes to debates about funding, what we see is that those forms of learning are not going to get prioritised over forms of learning which appear to have greater economic value which are prioritised.

We have to think broadly about what we think learning is. We know that adult learning is fundamentally also about economic progression, it's also about social progression. It's about the benefits to communities, individuals, those who possibly want to see greater benefits and progression in their lives. I think that fundamentally is what the commission needs to do, it needs to reframe, that vision and purpose of learning.

Responsibility for funding lifelong learning

I think primarily the government is lead on these issues. As to which learning or what forms of learning are funded by an individual, or by employers, there'll be a balance of different forms of learning. It's very important that the government takes that lead as the primary funder of learning, that's not the sole funder of learning.

As the government takes that lead remembering when the government is doing that, the government is investing funds that are brought in from the whole of society, investing taxpayer's income. The government and the state do not exist outside of society, it's not an action outside of that, it's investing all our own resources anyway. So, I think individuals are investing, but investing through their taxes through government etc.

I think that the final responsibility for funding must come from the state.

Then we have to look at different forms of learning, a balance between funding from the state, funding from the individual, funding from the employer. As we see different forms of learning we'll see those balances change.

It's important the state sees itself as the primary funder of learning. I think that's been eroded, that view in the past 10 years. That's important, I think the commission also has put that view back at centre stage for policy makers.

Dr. Graeme Atherton, Director, NEON (the National Education and Opportunities Network), a professional organisation for widening access to higher education in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Subscribe to the FE News podcast or visit Gavin's Newsroom on FE News

You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

FE News: The Future of Education News Channel shared a video in channel. 2 hours 34 minutes ago

Digifest 2021 expo orientation

Get a first look at the Digifest 2021 expo area, as well as useful information on how to move around and explore the interactive elements.

FE News: The Future of Education News Channel had a status update on Twitter 2 hours 35 minutes ago

RT @FENews: The three things Rishi Sunak needs to address in his March Budget: Senior IFS Research Economist Jonathan Cribb looks at the Ch…
View Original Tweet

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In May 2020, FE News had over 120,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page