MPs to launch inquiry into lifelong learning

Poor access to adult education is one of the 'great social injustices of our time', ex-minister Robert Halfon will say

Stephen Exley

Robert Halfon Sats

An inquiry into adult education and lifelong learning is to be launched by the Commons Education Select Committee.

The announcement will be made by committee chair Robert Halfon this morning, in a speech at an event hosted by the Centre for Social Justice in London.

The former skills minister is expected to say that poor access to lifelong adult learning is one of the "great social injustices of our time".


Background: Will Augar offer a vision for lifelong learning?

Quick read: 'Why Labour's lifelong learning commission matters'

Opinion: Why lifelong learning is so powerful


Adult education 'a lifeline'

"Adult learning should be a lifeline for the shocking number of those who left school ill-equipped to grapple with the rough and tumble of the jobs market," Mr Halfon will say.

"The number of people who fall into this category is just astonishing. More than a quarter – around 9 million – of all working-age adults in England have low literacy and or numeracy skills."

Stating how a "poor start in school means a tough ride in life", he will stress that "millions end up in low-skilled, low-paid jobs" with their "life prospects dragged into the quicksand".

"It is vital that we offer a way back," Mr Halfon will say. "And lifelong learning offers exactly that. Not only are many low-skilled workers trudging through a land of scarce opportunity [but] things could potentially get a whole lot worse.

"That's because the jobs market of the future will look very different from the one we see today. The march of the robots is coming."

During his speech, Mr Halfon will call for massive growth in the number of adult community learning centres – with one in every town – fee support for disadvantaged part-time students, and tax breaks for employers who invest in lifelong learning.

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Stephen Exley

Stephen Exley

Stephen Exley is a freelance writer, director of external affairs at Villiers Park Educational Trust and former FE editor at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @stephenexley

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