Thursday, 26 March 2015

Why we #loveFE and why everyone should care about saving adult education

“Our work at NEC means we’ve seen exactly how vital access to lifelong learning is for people, for the economy, and for society as a whole.”

Today is #LoveFE Day, part of a major national campaign launched in response to the announcement of a proposed 24% cut to the adult education budget, on top of the previous cuts the sector has already suffered. This would be devastating to further education (FE) provision, making it even harder for people to access opportunities to improve their education and their prospects. It also seems counterproductive to the urgent need to fill skills gaps, increase workplace productivity, and boost the economy.

When NEC was first established in 1963, founder Michael Young described his reasons for setting up what became the pilot for the Open University: ‘We were searching for education without institution, learning while earning, courses which people of all ages could take in their own time, at their own pace.’ Over 50 years later it seems there has never been a greater need for this kind of educational opportunity, as the world we live and work in continues to change.

It is a fact that the population is ageing. At the moment, around one in six people in the UK are over 65, by 2050 this will increase substantially to one in four. There will just not be enough young people to fill the estimated 13.5 million job vacancies, our only option is to work longer. It means we will need more opportunities to upskill and retrain into later life. There is already a skills crisis now, this will only get worse over time if adult education and lifelong learning are not supported and embraced by Government.

For people facing redundancy, or people who did not thrive in a mainstream school environment, or people who want to change careers and help fill today’s skills shortages, or people who need specialised support to re-engage with learning and change their lives for the better, it will be even harder to access the education they need to contribute to society. The work we do at NEC and with our partners has shown us first-hand how powerful education can be if people are supported and encouraged to access it. You only have to browse through our blog to see some of the positive impact adult education has made!

This is why we are wholeheartedly supporting the #LoveFE campaign and urge you to do the same. We should all care about access to adult learning because any of us may find ourselves needing it one day. Education benefits everyone, and everyone should be able to take part in it.

Please add your signature to the campaign’s petition and help to spread the word. Every voice counts.

Here are some thoughts from the team at NEC on why they personally feel that access to adult education is so essential:

As both an adult learner and a tutor to adults in the past, I know just how important the opportunity for lifelong learning is. It can be the start of a new career, a chance to try a new sport or hobby, or the beginnings of a long journey to speak another language. Adults often take up classes in retirement as they finally have time to do something for themselves, or learn a subject that they missed out on earlier on in life. Many learners make new friends through adult education and for some it's something to do with current friends or partners. Adult education is so much more than just going on to the next stage of a qualification. I have never stopped learning and fully intend to continue for as long as I am able.
— Stephanie

Because it’s impossible to teach/train young people everything they’ll need to know for a lifetime when we don't even know what job roles will exist 10 or 20 years from now. They'll need opportunities for education when they’re adults in the future, and currently working-age adults need opportunities now.
— Sophie

It’s important to be able to learn new skills and meet new people in the process – that’s what I used it for!
— Judy

So that people can pursue a career and get on in life, at any stage of life.
— Sue

Because people might need opportunities later on. You might have missed out at school. You might need to change direction. If you cut funding you risk excluding the people who would benefit most from those opportunities. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to get those opportunities myself, and I think there should be more funding for more people to do the same, not less.
— Christine

You don’t stop learning when you leave school. That’s what I told my boys. In fact, you probably learn more, and want to learn more, as you get older. People need to be able to keep learning.
— Karen

So people can learn stuff, so that they can do stuff. Enough said, really!
— Dan

I improved the English grade I got at school thanks to adult education. I think it’s important for people to be able to feel that FE is there for them if they need it, because it really does change lives. In my role at NEC I hear from many people who may not have done well at school and need a second chance.
— Maria

Lifelong learning is essential to society. The world is changing at a rapid pace, people are working longer, technology is replacing more and more jobs and causing others to change beyond recognition. Without adults having the opportunity to learn and grow we won’t be able to keep up, and the economy will be under more and more strain.
— Carly

Most people think that education happens in a school or university and forget the vital role of FE in reaching places other forms of education cannot. For example, a mother returning to work, a young carer whose school age education was interrupted, or a middle aged man who needs to change career after a redundancy. We have a duty to all of these people and more, to help them be the best that they can be, and contribute to this country’s economic growth.
— Ros

Alan Tuckett, former NEC trustee and the man 'The Guardian' called 'the man who invented adult learning', makes the best case there is for adult learning: it makes financial sense because people who learn are healthier than those with idle minds and have more to contribute to their communities.(Click to read article.)
— Elizabeth

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