Lifelong learning inquiry findings

The results of the most wide-ranging ever national inquiry into lifelong learning have been published today. Sponsored by the national adult learning organisation NIACE, the Inquiry into the Future of Lifelong Learning poses a stark reminder that learning is no longer the sole preserve of the young – and that changing workforce demographics make it more important than ever that employers recognise this.

The inquiry calls for the rebalance of the learning system and the implementation of a new approach that is genuinely life long. Its analysis has shown that while £55bn is spent each year on learning after compulsory schooling, distribution of this funding is still heavily skewed towards the young, as is the thinking behind learning.

Learning through Lifesays that we need a better balance of resources across the ages and stages of the life cycle, arguing that the right to learn throughout life is a human right.

Inquiry director Tom Schuller has written about the findings – and given a potential plan of action – in the 22 September issue of Personnel Today. Here are his 10 key recommendations:

1. Base lifelong learning policy on a new model of the educational life course, with four key stages (up to 25 years of age, 25-50, 50-75, and over 75):
Our approach to lifelong learning should deal far more positively with two major trends – an ageing society and changing patterns of paid and unpaid activity.

2. Rebalance resources fairly and sensibly across the different life stages:
Public and private resources invested in lifelong learning amount to more than £50bn: their distribution should reflect a coherent view of our changing economic and social context.

3. Build a set of learning entitlements:
A clear framework of entitlements to learning will be a key factor in strengthening choice and motivation to learn.

4. Engineer flexibility: build a system of credit and of encouraging part-timers:
Much faster progress is needed to implement a credit-based system, making learning more flexible and accessible with funding matched to it.

5. Improve the quality of work:
The debate on skills has been too dominated by an emphasis on increasing the volume of skills. There should be a stronger focus on how skills are actually used.

6. Construct a curriculum framework for citizens’ capabilities:
A common framework should be created of learning opportunities which should be available in any given area, giving people control over their own lives.

7. Broaden and strengthen the capacity of the lifelong-learning workforce:
Stronger support should be available for all those involved in delivering education and training, in various capacities.

8.Revive local responsibility:
The current system in England has become over-centralised, and insufficiently linked to local and regional needs. We should restore life and power to local levels.

9.Maintain national frameworks:
There should be effective machinery for creating a coherent lifelong learning strategy across the UK, and within the UK’s four nations.

10. Make the system intelligent:
The system will only flourish with information and evaluation that is consistent, broad and rigorous, together with open debate about the implications.