Parliamentary Reception celebrates Festival of Learning award winners

The importance of lifelong learning was celebrated at the annual Festival of Learning Parliamentary Reception at Westminster this week. Skills Minister Anne Milton MP and Shadow Skills Minister Gordon Marsden MP addressed the event on Wednesday 20 June, which brought together award winners, other Parliamentarians and key figures from the education and skills sectors.


21 06 2018

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The reception was sponsored by Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner MP to showcase the impact that learning has on individuals, families, communities, employers and the economy as well as to inspire others into learning.

Skills Minister Anne Milton spoke warmly about lifelong learning and offered her praise and congratulations to the Festival of Learning winners and highly commended. She highlighted the importance of learning as a “lever of social mobility” and said that she has the best job in government as “it’s a job all about inspiring people”.

Mrs Milton reflected on her many years in the health service and said that the single most impact that can be made on people’s health is to spend money on education.

She classified herself as a “reluctant learner” but that we need to “grab hold of the reluctant learners”. She said that “too many adults are not learning the skills they missed out on at school. We have a lot of catching up to do.”

The minister said that it’s important that we invest in lifelong learning full stop, regardless of the benefits of preparing the country for future change “it’s so important for social change”.

Shadow Skills Minister Gordon Marsden also highly praised the award winners and highly commended, saying he was “delighted to celebrate the Festival of Learning”.

He spoke of his interest in proposals suggested by Learning and Work Institute such as Personal Learning Accounts and ideas around ESOL, saying that “we all need to think how we take learning forward to the next generation.”

He said that “all forms of learning are to be valued and valued most when they take people progressively along a journey” and that it was crucial to recognise the life chances that learning gives people.

Mr Marsden said “Festival of Learning is a beacon for that process” and he spoke of the “odyssey” undertaken by Festival of Learning winners such as Steve Whitmore, who won the Social Impact award.

He also highly praised the collection of essays recently published by Learning and Work Institute – All change: where next for apprenticeships? – which offers ideas for how to make apprenticeships work.

Chief Executive at Learning and Work Institute Stephen Evans said:
“Festival of Learning is all about inspirational people who show that anyone can benefit from learning. Lifelong learning is vital for all of us as jobs and society change around us. It can help us at work and at home, and to build a fair and inclusive society. “Urgent action is needed to widen access to tackle long-standing structural inequalities in access to learning. Our annual survey of adult learning has highlighted persistent patterns of inequality for 20 years with little, if any, progress in tackling them. “Younger adults, people who already have higher level qualifications and those in higher socio-economic classifications are much more likely to be learning; with participation levels declining with age and distance from the labour market, and lowest for those with fewer or no formal qualifications. “Our surveys show that adults working in professional and managerial roles are twice as likely to be learning as those on the lowest incomes; adults in their early twenties are twice as likely to be learning than those in their fifties; and adults who stayed on in education beyond 16 are twice as likely to be learning as those who left at the earliest opportunity.”

Around 140 guests attended and heard from speakers, including:

  • Stephen Evans, Chief Executive, Learning and Work Institute
  • Rt Hon Anne Milton MP
  • Rt Hon Gordon Marsden MP
  • Graham Hasting-Evans, Managing Director, NOCN
  • Marcella Collins, Managing Director, Hotcourses Group
  • Steve Whitmore, Social Impact Award Winner
  • Joanne Abraham, Learning for Work Award, Highly Commended

Festival of Learning is a national celebration of lifelong learning. Funded by the Department for Education, it builds on a 25-year history of “Adult Learners’ Week” campaigns with a programme of activity which celebrates learning and engages more adults in learning. The campaign is now in its 27th year and has been replicated in more than fifty countries.