Raising the profile of lifelong learning

Ann Walker

John Denham's trading of statistics with Paul Mackney (To rethink FE is not to destroy it, FE Focus, October 24) is less important than the shared passion for transformative lifelong learning that they have written about.

Mr Denham has shown more public interest in adult education than any secretary of state since David Blunkett, whose Learning Age Green Paper in 1997 remains unparalleled in its enlightened approach to lifelong learning. Mr Denham is right to do so.

There is a groundswell of opinion in support of lifelong adult education, evidenced by the very rapid growth of Call (Campaigning Alliance for Lifelong Learning). Call was founded on a basic principle that, `affordable access to the life changing opportunities provided by education is the hallmark of a civilised society'.

Skills development for employability is a vital subset of education for social justice, but should not be its sole focus. A skilled and adaptable workforce operates most effectively within an educated society. More than ever we need learning, skills and knowledge for community involvement and informed participation in public life and decision-making. We need education for the large parts of our lives that are not spent in the workplace. Adult education has a positive influence on family life, community cohesion, creativity, culture, active retirement, health and wellbeing - all of which benefit society and the economy.

The available evidence suggests that Mr Denham, Mr Mackney and a large body of public opinion would agree with these principles and it is heartening that Denham is engaging in debate with members of Call. It was launched on September 30, 2008 and is attracting an impressive and growing membership list, available at www.callcampaign.org.uk?page_id=5.

Organisations as diverse as the National Federation of Women's Institutes, the Muslim Council of Great Britain and the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union have joined founder members in raising the profile of adult education. Call is FOR lifelong learning rather than against the government and, as a member of its secretariat, I welcome John Denham's active engagement with the issues.

Ann Walker, Regional director, WEA Yorkshire amp; Humber.

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Ann Walker

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