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Lifelong learning cut short

Despite the power of education to change people’s lives, adult participation in learning is at its lowest point since records began two decades ago. George Ryan explores the reasons behind the decline and the implications for individuals and society as a whole

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After Lee Hughes left school with no qualifications, his life went into a downward spiral, which culminated in him ending up homeless and addicted to heroin. Following the birth of his son and a breakdown in his relationship, Hughes decided enough was enough and took up a steady job in a call centre. But he kept getting into trouble for reading history books when he should have been working.

One day, Hughes’ manager said she’d had enough. She gave him an ultimatum: if he did not enrol at college, she would sack him. The next day, he went to Northern College in Barnsley and enrolled on an ...

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