The interim report of Labour’s independent Lifelong Learning Commission is published today (Thursday 1st August).

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The report sets out the deep-seated challenges facing lifelong learning, from a decade of austerity that has seen funding fall by nearly half in real terms since 2009-10 to a pervasive inequality in the distribution of skills, with those from disadvantaged backgrounds and left-behind communities often unable to access the education and support they need.

The Commission has outlined a bold and radical vision that will underpin the final report, to be published later this year.

This vision rests on a long-term, strategic plan, with clear entitlements to ensure all citizens have a right to learn. It proposes radical changes to the structure of lifelong learning, encouraging genuinely broad collaboration. This includes a continuing relationship between learners and providers, not one that simply ends when a new qualification is achieved.

This interim report will take further feedback and evidence from across the sector to contribute to the final report, with learners, providers, unions, employers, experts and other stakeholders invited to contribute.

The final report of the Lifelong Learning Commission will be published later this year.

Commenting, Gordon Marsden MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Further Education, Higher Education, Apprenticeships, and Skills, said: “I am delighted that in this 50th anniversary year of the Open University’s creation by a Labour government, this Commission’s interim report sets out a further radical new direction for lifelong learning, essential to Labour’s proposed National Education Service.

“The co- chairs, Commissioners, adviser Andy Westwood, and other staff have been working tirelessly to this end. The work they have already done and the vision they have set out are a testament to this.

“After nearly a decade of funding cuts, lost support for students, a catastrophic fall in numbers of adult learners and fragmentation imposed by the Conservatives, a bold new plan fit for the 21st century is essential to make lifelong learning accessible to all.

“This Commission is cutting across the silos in Government policy which has stifled this. This interim report proclaims that lifelong learning is about social justice and personal empowerment as well as the reskilling, training and industrial strategy our country and its economy desperately needs. It is signposting new directions for integrated policy which will address those for the next 10-15 years.”

Commenting Dave Ward (General Secretary of the CWU) / Estelle Morris (Labour’s Former Education Secretary), Co-Chairs of the Lifelong Learning Commission, said:  

“Labour’s plan for a National Education Service offers hope for the revival of accessible, ‘cradle-to-grave’ learning which is open to all regardless of age, background or circumstance. It offers hope for a system of lifelong learning which is not an ‘optional extra’ but an integral part of a dynamic, cohesive and learner-centred system.

“This interim report identifies some of the major issues with the current education system and seeks to set out a radical vision for lifelong learning in the twenty-first century. We hope that this, along with the Commission’s final report later in the year, will inform Labour’s National Education Service and that our society will become one where opportunities for high quality learning throughout life are available in every community.”

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