A Welsh Right to Lifelong Learning12-September-2019
Learning doesn’t stop at the school gate. In fact, for many, learning only starts once those gates are far behind them. In Wales, a commitment to improve personal or professional development through lifelong learning was formalised in December 2018 following an agreement between the First Minister and the Minister for Education. It highlights the need to ‘explore how we can deliver a new Welsh right to lifelong learning, investing in the skills which people need throughout their lives, for individual, societal and economic benefit’.
Adult Community Learning (ACL) supports a wide range of formal, non-formal and informal learning provision and is essential for all - particularly those who are hardest to reach, and furthest away from education and employment. Our work and other research shows the value of accessible education and how enhancing skills makes a real difference to people’s lives.
It is crucial that we nurture the skill of learning over a lifetime to secure informed, flexible, intelligent and healthy workforces and communities. The economic, social and civic advantages of developing a truly lifelong learning society in Wales are profound, where this would provide the cutting-edge needed for our communities to be resilient, for our economy to adapt to changing circumstances and for our democracy to thrive.
Addysg Oedolion Cymru | Adult Learning Wales was formed following a merger in 2015 between WEA Cymru (the Workers’ Educational Association in Wales) and YMCA Wales Community College. We are proud to continue and build on the history and successes of both predecessor organisations, which amounts to over 100 years of providing adult education and skills. We are also the only National Community College and Democratic Movement for adult community learning in Wales. Every year, we work with 13,000 adult learners to upskill and gain qualifications in over 30,000 learning activities.
We also have partnerships with over 200 organisations, including employers from the third Sector, universities, colleges, local authorities and Wales TUC. Partnerships like these are vital for maintaining a coherent, fair and equitable approach, allowing more adults to be educated and trained in their communities and their workplaces.
It’s that kind of closeness with communities that also comes about through delivering equality of access to Welsh medium provision, supporting health and wellbeing initiatives and providing opportunities for disabled people that can help serve as a bellwether for individual and community needs.
This time last year, funding vulnerabilities and lack of clarity around policy strategy for the future delivery of ACL in Wales resulted in a consultation on the ‘delivery and structure of community-based adult learning in Wales’. It sought stakeholder views to help shape the future of ACL policy. We are awaiting with interest the full outcomes and decisions that emerge from the consultation.
In our response to the consultation we contended that any proposed reform of current strategy should be modern, efficient and provide added value; we also believe that it must be socially responsible and sustainable. Adult and community learning is part of the fabric of Welsh society and enhanced ACL would help ensure every citizen across Wales has the right to lifelong learning. We hoped that this helped to inform on the Welsh Government’s approach and secure the future of the ACL movement for all adult learners across Wales.
Kathryn Robson, Chief Executive
Addysg Oedolion Cymru | Adult Learning Wales