As the UK National Coordinator for the European Agenda for Adult Learning 2020-2021, Learning and Work Institute has build on the work undertaken between 2012-2019 and continues to contribute to the European Commission’s strategic priorities:….
Making lifelong learning and mobility a reality; Improving the quality and efficiency of education and training; Promoting equity, social cohesion, and active citizenship; Enhancing creativity and innovation, including entrepreneurship, at all levels of education and training.Improving the knowledge base on adult learning and monitoring the adult learning sector
On behalf of Department for Education and the European Commission for the European’s Agenda for Adult Learning, we have developed a programme of work promoting evidenced-based approaches to adult learning in an increasingly devolved decision-making context.
We shall focus on participation and its impact. The focus of the UK work was agreed well before the current pandemic. However we believe the themes below are more relevant than ever during 2020-2021.
All countries face the challenge of getting scarce resources into the hands of people who need it most. The first step is to understand the current pattern of ‘take-up’ of adult learning: who is accessing learning and why.
Over the last 20+ years, L&W’s annual adult participation in learning survey has highlighted the positive benefits that participation in adults learning brings for the individual and society, including improved health and wellbeing and productivity.
During 2020 we will be undertaking fieldwork on current participation in adult learning with reports published here. We will also carry out a qualified ‘deep dive’ of specific target groups in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales to better understand underlying issues and think about how we engage more adults in learning across the UK.
In order to support greater access to adult learning from all parts of society, we need to design a more flexible set of entry pathways into learning and progression pathways for those already in learning and work.
Building on our previous programmes, we will focus on employer engagement with basic skills at both provider and policy level, looking at the workplace benefits of basic skills investment from the employer and provider perspective from across the UK and Europe. In addition, we will be carrying out UK-wide research for best practice of how areas are using different funding streams to develop new local ESOL partnership and co-ordination models.
UK systems are generally strong on quality assurance and improvement, but these tend to be focused on those adults already in the system.
The other area for development across the UK is how adult learning can be funded and measured in terms of outcomes and impact. This is particularly important in devolved settings where policy makers are looking at combining budgets such as this for health, skills and employment services.
Recent L&W reports for the EAAL have stressed a greater focus on the outcomes and impact of adult learning as well as greater alignment with other areas of public policy, such as health and employment. There has also been a greater policy focus in the UK on adult learning and training given economic, technological, and demographic change which the UK programme has an opportunity to influence.
During this current programme we shall build on previous research we have carried out to develop:
Adult learning in the UK takes place within a devolved policy context, with Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England responsible for their own nation’s policy. L&W’s approach to coordination of the UK’s contribution to the European Agenda has been to enable sharing of best practice within the four devolved administrations and between them. We have therefore developed Impact Forums in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. These engage a range of policy makers, influencers and decision makers in capturing, sharing and highlighting a solid evidence base for Adult Learning policy development. They draw together, not only representatives who are interested in adult learning, but also those from diverse health sectors; those from different community interests and perspectives along with employers and representatives from business and commerce.
The forums are complemented by seminars, conferences and events which draw even wider audiences of policy makers and practitioners, in sharing research, evidence and experiences. The four nations share policies and practices and there is emerging evidence of the impact on change in those administrations. The Impact Forums capture and record insights into policy and practice impact and use EPALE platforms to share them.
In addition to the three themes in 2015-17 we convened an expert group of researchers to oversee the compilation of a State of the Nations report. This brought together national, international and regional research on adult learning on the impact of adult learning on health, work and communities, in order to influence policy makers and practitioners alike. The evidence in the draft research report was discussed and debated at a summative conference in partnership with EPALE UK in October 2017.
See the final research report, Healthy, Wealthy and Wise, and the published summary briefings for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
This programme helped improve the digital skills of those niche groups by developing a fully trialled CPD programme to support adult educators in the four UK nations to better use technology to support under-represented groups.