From education to employment

National Festival to Celebrate Adult Learners and Turn Light on Neglected Area of FE

It seems that the FE sector as a whole has elected to focus its attentions on the needs of the economy and on the direct skills battles faced for young people entering the workforce.

This is the clear implication of the Foster Review, a thread running throughout ministerial comments and stakeholder statements, and the expected outcome of the Leitch Review being conducted at present. The challenge faced by that perennial bugbear of the education sector in recent months, namely the economic challenge of our competitors whose nations appear to take a more comprehensive approach to training for work, is certainly one that merits a great deal of attention.

The danger persists, however, that this will lead to a perpetual shade being cast over the plight of and achievements of the adult education sector. In an annual series of events designed to highlight the issues faced and conquered by adult learners across the country, the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) are aiming to combat this trend.

Adult Learners” Week

The festival, entitled “Adult Learners” Week”, is described as the largest single learning festival in the UK, and will be launched later today at the regal ““ sounding Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre opposite the House of Commons. The launch will see people from all areas of the country and many walks of life gathering to celebrate the successes and share the experiences of learning in the adult and continuing education sector. This will include families learning together and those who have worked hard to improve both their own lives and the lives of others around them.

Prizes will also be awarded, including the Adult Learners” Week Group Award to be given to factory floor workers at GKN Driveline in the West Midlands for their achievements in gaining qualifications in numeracy and literacy. Radio Wanno will also be recognised, which is a radio project for inmates at Wandsworth Prison. Amongst the other winners will be the National Senior Learner of the Year, Pam Haywood-Reed, aged 64, who has passed on her own recently learnt IT skills to nearly 150 other older people; the Bilingual Childcare Group in Surrey who have overcome the language barrier presented by speaking 12 different languages to gain qualifications; and Family Matters, a parenting course at the Portland Young Offenders Institute.

Ministerial Attention

Also present as part of his busy summer itinerary will be Bill Rammell MP, the Minister for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education, supporting the event that is funded through the Department for Education and Skills (DfES), the European Social Fund (ESF), learndirect and the National Learning and Skills Council. He spoke of the importance of the week’s events, saying: “Adult Learners” Week is about promoting the power of learning, recognising success and emphasising the huge personal rewards on offer to hundreds of thousands of adults who sign up for learning to improve their lives each year.

“Adult learning changes peoples lives as workers, members of families and of the community,” he continued. “This week is to celebrate individuals” successes and promote these to others. The award winners, nominees, tutors and supporters prove that people can overcome the greatest obstacles to seize opportunities that are both valuable and permanent.”

The week will undoubtedly raise the profile of adult learning, for the duration of the week. However, it would seem that the priorities of the Government are focussed elsewhere; a concerted effort will be required if adult learning is not to slip out of public consciousness as soon as the attention drawn by the festival has ended.

Jethro Marsh

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