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A strategy for lifelong learning

It was good to see (FE Focus, January 13) the articles by David Sherlock and Paul Mackney on the only recent report that pays proper regard to the growing crisis in adult education and the demographic changes that are being largely ignored elsewhere.

The Eight in Ten report was the result of a strong committee of people with extensive experience of further education, among whom David and Paul were key contributors. As the latter says (approvingly), the report "has the smell of colleges".

David has a touching faith in the beneficial effect of structural reorganisation. He asks, "Why are there 257 general FE colleges in England now that the economy is global, not local?" Well, because a lot of learners still go to them. We might equally ask why we have 110 universities in Britain. There will be more mergers, more reorganisations, and there will be bigger colleges, but there will also continue to be local need best served by local institutions. "Why 257?" is the wrong question. A much better one is: when will we recognise the benefits of all adult learning, and when will we have a serious strategy for lifelong learning?

Colin Flint

Director for FE

Niace

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