LECTURER CONTRIBUTES TO ‘GREAT FE TEACHING’ BOOK

by Faizah Azeem, originally published 18th July 2022

Lecturer contributes to ‘Great FE Teaching’ book – Solihull College & University Centre

A lecturer from Solihull College & University Centre has written a chapter in a book published in collaboration with educators from across the further education (FE) sector.

Kerry Scattergood, Family Learning Co-ordinator and Adult Literacy specialist, has contributed a chapter to a book entitled ‘Great FE Teaching: Sharing good practice’.

With 21 years of experience teaching, Kerry has developed a specialism in research and sharing good practice. A founder member of the College’s Research Steering Group, Kerry has been organising events since 2019, providing educators with the space to disseminate their expertise and learn from others’ good practice.

Kerry is a strong advocate for sharing best practice across sector

The steering group was formed after Kerry connected with the founding chair of #FEResearchmeet, Samantha Jones, on Twitter. Kerry explains: “I use Twitter as a professional development tool by engaging with educators and finding great examples of teaching methods and research. I saw that Sam had started the #FEResearchmeet movement and I tagged a colleague and said, ‘we need this at our college’.”

#FEResearch meet is described as ‘a free and democratic movement building and supporting engagement with research in FE, led by practitioners, for practitioners.’ (https://www.feresearchmeet.org/)

The book came about out of conversations on how to best share teaching practices, Kerry says: “The core principle of the book is about disseminating the good practice that is happening in FE in real teaching with real students and real learning. Sam asked different teachers across the sector to contribute chapters to the book to get a broad selection of best practice.”

Kerry’s chapter is entitled: “Everyday writing practices for adult literacy learners”. The concept of this chapter is something that Kerry first thought about many years ago when working in the community on a probation project: “As part of an Open University course I was completing, I did a project on engaging adult learners. However, there wasn’t a way of disseminating my research at the time. As I developed in my career, I started to realise how much that experience really shaped me and my teaching practice, it was real and belonged to me and gave me my own autonomy within my classroom and my own practices.”

The experience that Kerry has often reflected on formed an integral part of her teaching practice, some of which she has now shared in the book.

Kerry adds: “A lot of FE teachers don’t necessarily identify as teachers but more so industry professionals who teach. That is the core and beauty of FE.”

You can order a copy of the book now: https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/great-fe-teaching/book279504#contents

How puppies can help study

At first thought, it seems very unlikely that having a new puppy is a helpful aid to study. Anyone who has ever welcomed a fluffy bundle of loveliness into their home knows that, as gorgeous as they are, puppies are hard work. However, they also come with a predictable schedule.

Twelve years ago, my summer holidays began with collecting a new puppy. I also had the summer to revise for an under-graduate exam that I was due to sit in the September. Somehow the combination of a puppy and revision worked really well for me, and I reckon it was the best and most organised study I’d ever achieved to that point. This summer, history is repeating itself as we have collected a new puppy once again – right at the start of the summer holidays. This has me pondering what it is about puppies that gives such good focus to studying.

Space

The first thing I did was set up my space. It’s a really good idea when settling in a puppy to keep them in one area of the house. This actually is a really great idea for studying too! So I set up a room with everything ready that I needed… for both puppy and study. There was a puppy crate and bed, with water and feed bowls, and toys. A bookshelf loaded with the resources I needed (and the odd ornament or plant – out of puppy’s reach, of course!), a table to work at with suitable seating, plus a comfy chair for rest or reading in.

Schedule

The next important stage was to set a schedule. If you follow a puppy’s lead appropriately (pardon the pun!), you’ll find they have a natural pattern throughout the day of being awake, playing, eating, toileting and sleeping. The secret there is to be mindful and in the moment with your puppy. For me, this turned into a pattern of studying when the puppy slept, and getting outside a lot too. So, it turns out that having a clear schedule for study that includes breaks and also focusses on your wellbeing is a great approach to study too.

Focus

There’s a lot to be said for not sweating the small stuff, and you really can’t sweat the small stuff and play with a puppy at the same time! My focus came from knowing nap time really was when I needed to get stuff done and, in doing so, I’d really get the benefit of being productive but of also really enjoying both experiences.

Just as I am finishing writing this blog post, the sleeping puppy that is at my feet has started to twitch. I think it is time to go outside and be in the moment, which in turn will help my own focus and wellbeing.

Thank you so much for reading my light-hearted blog about studying and puppies. I am currently reviewing my approaches to managing my time/roles/in-boxes, after being inspired by a Twitter post by @MartineGuernsey. I have hardly posted anything on my blog since Covid lockdown stripped a lot of time out of my day/headspace for processing things, although that hasn’t meant I’ve stopped writing. I just haven’t been writing here, which is something I’d like to change.

Ending sexual violence in FE: if not us, then who?

Today it is the one year anniversary since Sarah Everard was kidnapped, raped and murdered at the hands of a serving police officer. This morning I retweeted a Sky news article on the anniversary, which asked: has anything changed for women? The short answer is no.

However, Sarah’s murder did have immediate real-world consequences: following the outcry of (mainly) women on social media, and in real-life protests, girls and young women started to share stories of sexual violence in educational establishments through the website ‘Everyone’s Invited’, founded by Soma Sara. A direct result of the founding of the website was a review by Ofsted, published in June 2021, into sexual abuse in schools and colleges. The report found:

“sexual harassment and online sexual abuse has become ‘normalised’ for children and young people, and found that many teachers and leaders consistently underestimate the scale of these problems” (NGA, 2021).

The Women’s Leadership Network, who describe themselves as a social justice organisation promoting intersectional gender equality for women of all backgrounds, heritage, and identities in FE, skills and lifelong learning, responded by launching the campaign ‘Ending Sexual Violence in all FE: if not us then who?’. I had the honour of speaking at the November #FridayLunchMeet on why I support the campaign.

This is such an important campaign for FE: despite the claim that Oftsed investigated schools AND colleges, and despite the website ‘Everyone’s Invited’, there are startlingly few stories of sexual assault in FE. Is that because there isn’t a problem in FE? Or is it more likely that FE staff and students are further distanced from the systems of power that give voice to our concerns? In a world where sexual abuse is normalised, it is hard to speak up. We’ve seen that playing out in the last ten years, starting with #MeToo, an opportunity for girls and women to show how prevalent sexual violence is, and in response to the bravery of a few women speaking out against powerful men. That’s not a story that has gone away lately either.

But part of the problem is how normalised and invisible sexual violence is in our culture. The causes are complex but we certainly live in a time where girls and young women are objectified in all of the imagery that surrounds us through media. And, having spent the 90s and the 00s smashing gender stereotypes, it seems they are back with a vengeance, with heavily gendered toys and clothes for children meaning parents buy again: capitalism at its finest, causing those who don’t fit into these neat boxes to conform or struggle. (See the ‘Let toys be toys’ and ‘Let clothes be clothes’ campaigns created by parents).

So what can we do? And where do we start? Join the conversation at the Women’s Leadership Network’s upcoming conference and #IWD celebrations.

A rich tapestry of learning

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Action research conversations at Coleg Sir Gar & Coleg Ceredigion

Last night I had the absolute pleasure of talking to a group of new action-researchers from Coleg Sig Gar and Coleg Ceredigion.

Each year, within the college group, FE practitioners have the opportunity to undertake an action research project as part of their professional development. There is a year long programme of support, including sessions to help them develop their project. I had the joy of gate-crashing their first session a few weeks ago, and the even greater joy of talking last night about my own experiences as an action-researcher, and why I think it is such an important opportunity for FE practitioners.

I started my story by sharing my metaphor for professional learning; the idea of a ‘tapestry’ of learning. One of the concepts I encountered during my QTLS year is the idea of the ‘threads’ of learning running through. I loved this metaphor, as it conjures an image for me of a rich tapestry of learning, that has been weaved out all of my learning so far, and will continue to be weaved throughout my adult life.

A tapestry of learning is a far more powerful metaphor for me than learning as a ‘journey ‘. A journey implies a straight track. A start point and an end point. A clearly defined route. A journey doesn’t allow for all the ups and downs, the messiness of learning, and it suggests when you get to a certain point then learning is done. This makes a tapestry a much more meaningful metaphor for action research: a process that can smash through our assumptions and throws up learning we can never predict or anticipate.

This is exactly why I believe action research is such a powerful tool for FE practitioners: last night I shared the story of my first project, and how the things I learnt where really not the things I expected to learn and that are still resonating with me years down the line. We considered a Coleg Sir Gar colleague Cath Roberts’ project from last year: ‘Cameras on, cameras off’ and the lessons learnt from that, which prove our assumptions aren’t always accurate.

There is great power in this learning too: action research is our opportunity to recognise our own expertise. I asked the delegates: who is the expert in your classroom if it is not you? Any practitioner research opportunity gives us space to own this expertise and to use the experience to shape our own practice and to inform our pedagogy. It gives practitioners agency over their own professional development and learning; a deeper more nuanced opportunity than most.

A massive thank you to Bryony Evett Hackfort for inviting me and to Glenda Dowell-Thomas for hosting me. More importantly, a huge thank you to the delegates of the session and for their thoughtful, inquiring questions and discussions afterwards.

Are independent Spirits more innovative and self questioning?

As part of my #FEVirtualResearchmeet event, my MPhil colleague Garry Nicholson and I explored the purpose of education through the concepts of ‘Becoming’ and ‘Bildung’, as we research our settings in adult & community education. We’re developing the conversations around the hashtag: #BeingBecomingThriving.

Dr Christine Challen responds to Garry’s presentation in this guest blog:

Guest blog by Dr Christine Challen

In the last few months I have been reading what would not necessarily be classed as educational or pedagogy literature, including Phillip Pullman, Nan Shepherd and more recently Tove Jansson. It has however provided me, through their writings, much to reflect on how we can enrich, inspire and engage our students towards global citizenship through creative curriculums.

While attending a #FEVirtualResearchmeet session this week, I was fortunate enough to be in a “breakout” session with Garry Nicholson, who brought up the very interesting concept of Bildung. This “refers to the German tradition of self cultivation, wherein philosophy and education are linked in a manner that refers to a process of both personal and cultural maturation.” This immediately ignited a spark and enhanced how the literature I had been reading had so much relevance and overlap to this idea. More importantly was how we could combine these to better prepare pupils towards enabling them to make contributions to society through confident opinions and choices.

This is so necessary as it ultimately affects “cultural equality” and the ability for pupils to successfully participate in discussions with a healthy respect for different ideas/opinions that evolve through experiencing different environments and cultures” Challen (2020). Additionally it also enables a “built in” ability to control and self regulate emotions in a safe conducive environment which in turn can result in less behavioural challenges; a much needed move away from exclusion booths.

So much of our education system today is controlled by targets “getting pupils through exams” teaching to exams accountability everywhere you look. However this drive for learning facts after facts has meant we have totally alienated students not only from society but from themselves and more importantly their own autonomy/agency in learning.

So how do the ideas of Bildung, Pullman, Shepherd and Jansson relate?

How can we use this to provide a flexible enriching education that enables a continual changing and evolving platform.

In particular enhancing both subject knowledge and philosophical socio/environmental and economic discussions towards providing innovative creative solutions for a socially just society.

Forms of capital were first introduced by Bourdieu in 1986 consisting of economic, cultural and social. However Ofsted clung onto “cultural capital” and were going to use this as an inspection theme, however apart from the difficulty nigh impossibility of trying to evidence this perse it deviates from Bourdieu’s original theory that all three are needed as a “transubstantiation” for the function and structure of the world. However it is also pivotal for the holistic journey of being to becoming to thriving and as in the definition of Bildung wherein philosophy and education are linked in a manner that refers to a process of both personal and cultural maturation.”

Bildung offers the opportunity for students to have autonomy and agency in their learning it provides a window for them to state what they want to learn from a course and more importantly how they wish to use it. Surely this is going to be a more effective approach to engage students rather than bombarding them with facts that they will never need or want to use and then they switch off and more often than not the classroom dynamics and behaviour changes for the worst!

While Pullman, Shepherd and Jansson may not instantly be associated with educational pedagogy their ideas through different messages and writings not only support innovative evolving strategies but also the ideals behind Bildung. Pullman is a firm believer in the importance of exposing children to a wide range of literature, philosophers/ies and religious voices. This not only enhances deep and rich experiences through stories which ultimately in time results in a growth of both personal and cultural maturation as within the definition of Bildung. He goes on in his book Daemon stories to describe how he uses the technique of the film director David Mamet’s approach  “where do I put the camera” as his story writing tool a way of questioning and critical analysis not only from the setting the scene but also from building his characters and their attributes. In many ways this is what we want from our students a journey of self actualisation, the ability to self cultivate and find out who they are.

In many respects Shepherd and Jansson are very similar in their ideologies. Both had a deep love of nature and were independent spirits able to explore freely their surroundings Shepherd the Cairngorms in Scotland and Jansson the beauty of a remote Island off the gulf in Finland. Both in Shepherd’s words “immerse themselves” in their environments mind body soul and senses. Shepherd states it is seeing the “world not just as we see it but as the world sees us.”

In a Summer Book Jansson describes a Summer spent on a remote island with an elderly artist and her 6 yr old grand daughter its beauty and relevance sings in how they discover/explore the island wildlife, birds flowers and grasses. It is however more its a journey of being and becoming through learning to respect and love each others attributes and fears nemesis and all. In A Winter Book Jansson has created a series of short stories which celebrate “the life of art.” However as with the Summer book the underlying theme of a spiritual and holistic journey is there lurking under the surface. The desire to face and self reflect on each life/time line as Ali Smith so succinctly puts it in her introduction “The stories face age, youth and each of the dark seasons with the same determination to make something light of it all.

The free wild independent spirits of Shepherd and Jansson effectively enhanced their imaginations but more so their innovative self questioning towards a determination to thrive. Pullman in his use of stories from all “cultural backgrounds” also create an imaginative self actualisation and freedom to emotively feel express in a self regulated manner.

Education must not just be about subject knowledge but be subjective; it needs to explore the world through developing physical, spiritual and sensory methods that enable emotionally engaging experiences. This requires not just enriching creative curriculums but the ideology of Bildung wherein philosophy and education are linked in a manner that refers to a process of both personal and cultural maturation.” Such strategies will enable students the opportunity to find out who they are as well as allow a journey of self actualisation and provide them with an education that they can truly thrive but more importantly effectively contribute to the evolving problems of an ever changing society.

 

References

Bourdieu, P. (2010). Distinction. Translated by Richard Nice. Abingdon: Routledge.

Bourdieu, P. (1986). The forms of capital. In J. G. Richardson (Ed.), Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education, (pp. 241–258). New York: Greenwood.

Challen, C. (2020). Rethinking higher education policy and leadership for the 21st century: Enhancing strategies for global citizenship and justice. Journal of Higher Education Policy And Leadership Studies, 1(1), 77-81. DOI:

Jansson, T (2006). A Winter Book. London Sort of Books

Jansson, T (2003) The Summer Book. London Sort of Books

Pullman, P. (2017). Daemon Voices: Essays on Storytelling. Oxford: David Fickling Books.

Shepherd, N. (2011). The Living Mountain. UK: Canongate Books.

 

 

Benefits of audiobooks

I’ve been chatting this week to Sam Duncan, discussing audiobooks and reading aloud. If you aren’t yet familiar with it, Sam has recently conducted research into reading aloud, which I think anyone interested in adult or family literacy would find very interesting and helpful.

 

Driving about the community between classes, I’ve habitually been a Radio 4 diehard. However, I’ve abandoned radio (and toxic news) a little in the last year, in favour of audiobooks. A little escapism is sometimes good for the soul.

 

I first became interested in the potential of audiobooks for adult learners last year, after listening to William Ford, from the Birmingham Adult Dyslexia Group, discussing using technology to help adults with dyslexia.

 

According to Prof Maggie Snowling CBE, President of St John’s College, Oxford, dyslexia is a phonological problem, in translating text to sound. Hearing a text out loud can really help people (and not just with dyslexia) to understand it better. Have you ever caught yourself reading out loud something you did not understand, to make better sense of it? Without the text getting in the way of a good story, it’s possible to enjoy it more too – don’t forget that stories have been oral long before anyone learnt to write them down.

 

Snowling also notes that, because dyslexia often is hereditary, it seems possible that parents who don’t enjoy reading will have fewer books in the house, and thus are less likely to raise children in reading-rich environments. There is no judgement from her, only an understanding of the difficulties this can cause families in supporting children’s literacy development.

 

This is where audiobooks have the potential to help engage families in stories. I was telling Sam that, in my own family, reading aloud is such a normal, everyday practice that my children will choose to read to me and to read to each other. Lately, I’ve been discussing with some learners the potential for enjoying audio-stories together as a family and so, without realising it, making time for reading.

In their own words: writing class blogs

From September 2019, we have been delivering the reformed Functional Skills qualifications. City & Guilds now include writing a forum contribution or a blog article in the Level 1 and Level 2 English qualification. This seems like a good opportunity to take a piece of writing all the way from draft form to ‘published’, by creating a class blog.

So far, my teaching approach for blogs has been the same as it is for all new writing styles. First, we define what a blog is and look at some examples. I always then ask if anyone has any experience of writing the type of text. Then, we decide what the features of a blog are, which I record on the whiteboard (in the students’ own words) so that we can refer back to it later. Finally, I will introduce a writing task and we identify what our purpose is and who the audience is likely to be, which helps us make decisions about language style and tone.

For my first ever attempt at teaching blog writing, I wanted to choose a topic that is personal. This would reflect well the style of a blog article, and to help differentiate between blogs and newspaper articles. For that reason, I decided to use the theme ‘what is the value of adult education’. My logic for theme choice is explained further in my post, ‘Empowered writers empower writers’.

Depending on the level of the group and how confident the group are (including how much experience of the type of writing they may have), I might then model some planning and scaffold the writing task with the group, before letting them have a go at writing their own.

Following this blog writing lesson, we have been proofreading and editing our drafts and turning them into real blogs! Do take a look at our class blog that we have created:

Kerry’s Adult English Class: A place to practise and share our writing

 

 

 

 

Winter Wonder – the first Midlands #FEResearchmeet of the year

I’ve been feeling a bit hopeless lately. After the election result, I was in a state of utter disbelief and left wondering what it meant for the future of education (as someone with a foot in primary, further and adult education, I see the effects of austerity through all sectors). After Christmas, I’ve returned to work, getting up on dark mornings feeling like maybe life would be better if we got to hibernate…

But today has brought me the possibility of working through my stages of grief to acceptance and, more crucially, back to activism and hope.

My friend and SET colleague, Annie Pendrey, hosted the first of a pair of #FEResearchmeets that we are running this year in the Midlands. The line-up of speakers was impressive and, in hindsight, it is probably no surprise that there were some similar threads running throughout the day, notably the effects of a decade of austerity, of critical incidents, but also of empowerment, agency and hope.

The key note speaker, Birmingham City University’s Professor Matt O’Leary, set the scene, reminding us that further education has suffered year on year of funding cuts, causing a decade of harm. He drew our attention to some of the horror stories, such as an incredible 23,000 redundancies across the sector (source: UCU), causing us to reflect on the effects of austerity and neo-Liberal education. And yet, his words were full of inspiration and full of hope, causing us to take stock and celebrate what we are achieving regardless.

Amongst other reasons, Matt had us thinking about how important it is for teachers to engage in research to make sense of policy and practice; to help us make informed decisions; and to continue to enhance our professionalism. For me, the most important messages were about context and that teaching and learning are complex and cannot possibly be reduced to simplified models: a theme I am encountering over and over, not only in my research but in my everyday practice.

As the day progressed, there was the opportunity to hear about some incredible practitioner research shared by: Lynne Taylerson (on informal professional development through social media); Kathyrn Sidaway (on exploring the motivation of ESOL learners); and Lousia Williams (asking, ‘What motivates the motivator?’).

Inspirational Advanced Teacher research projects were shared by Tina Reilly and Annie Pendrey, and Mike Tyler shared insights into dual coding – very effectively demonstrating how to put research into practice.

Lou Mycroft and Kay Sidebottom brought us some useful philosophical theory to help us frame our thinking and our work, before Lou closed the day by sharing with us her ‘ethics of joy’, and challenged us to look at our own values and to work in ways that bring joy.

I think today has brushed away my winter blues and, while I haven’t quite worked my way through the seven stages of grief yet, I’ve definitely got my mojo back. This year I’ll be furthering my own research adventure, working in and with the rhizomes, and doing so with joy.

(Many thanks to the Society of Education and Training for their generous sponsorship, which enabled us to keep the event free for delegates).

Join us for our next Midlands #FEResearchmeet – on Monday, 29th June at Solihull College and University Centre, hosted by me and Annie Pendrey. Details to follow on Twitter.

#distancetravelledisnotjustforstudents

Welcome to a guest blog post from my friend and colleague, teacher educator Laura Jackson. At the dawn of a new year, Laura welcomes you to join her in considering the journey of your past year and to celebrate your achievements during these challenging times in education. Thank you to Laura for your contribution.
At a time when we are closing down one year and starting another, we seem to be in a period of reflection of the year gone by and anticipation of what’s to come.
The focus of this article is a conversational piece looking at ‘distance travelled’. It features heavily in SARs, and OFSTED love a bit of progress monitoring too, let’s be honest who doesn’t like to chart the progress however small, of those we teach. After all, is that not what education is about? Enriching lives, furthering knowledge, expanding horizons and such.
‘Distance travelled’ appears to be always used in relation to our students. Their journey. Their progress. But what about distance travelled for us? As practitioners in our field, we also travel many distances over the course of the year, both metaphorically and literally!
Aside from the literal sense of travelling distances to conferences, different education providers and many other places, what distance have I travelled? Whilst I consider my own distance travelled, I hope it sparks something in you to consider your own distance travelled in the hope of giving yourself a massive pat on the back for getting through the last year amid many challenges the education sector can throw at you.
Here’s to a Happy New Year 2020!
Laura Jackson
MEL, BA (Hons), DTLLS
Based at: Solihull College & University Centre

100 years of adult education

Anyone who follows me on twitter will know I have followed the developments of the ‘Centenary Commission’ with great interest. A little background: in 1919, the then Ministry of Reconstruction produced a report into adult education in England, viewing it as an opportunity for developing citizenship and growth. The most well known quote from the introduction of the original report describes adult education as “permanent national necessity, an inseparable aspect of citizenship, and therefore should be both universal and lifelong” (1).

This year, a new commission, the ‘Centenary Commission‘ was created to review what is now known as the ‘1919 report’, with new recommendations for a 21st century Britain. The report, released on 18th November to tie in with the original report’s release date, makes 18 excellent suggestions, which can be viewed here.

Last night, I had the honour of attending the inaugural presentation of the report, within a wider event celebrating adult education entitled: ‘Changing Lives: Celebrating 100 years of Adult Education’. The event was presented by Mel Lenehan, principal and chief executive of Fircroft College, sponsored by West Midlands Combined Authority, The West Midlands Further Education Skills & Productivity group, West Midlands Adult & Community Learning Alliance and the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, and was hosted in the fantastic conference suite at Solihull College and University Centre.

I had the even greater honour of inviting one of my own adult learners to the event and I invited someone from the women’s centre, who wouldn’t normally get the opportunity to attend a main college campus event due to her class meeting in an outreach centre. This vibe ran through the whole event, with one speaker commenting “wherever we meet, be it libraries, community centres, or in the pub!”, as did the feeling that none of us would be there without our adult learners.

Mel Lenehan opened the event with an inspiring presentation, including a powerful video showing Fircroft learners sharing the impact their education has had on them. She asked different stakeholders to stand and be welcomed with a round of applause, from policy makers, to leaders, to researchers, to tutors and, of course, most importantly: “please stand up if you have been an adult learner in the last 100 years!” No surprise when the whole room rose to their feet!

The first speech came from a practitioner from Birmingham Adult Education Services, who shared inspirational stories of her learners (with their blessing of course), and really highlighted the impact adult learning has on the individual, their families, as well as the wider community and society. One such story was of a dyslexic learner who had struggled with school and, as an adult, was a single parent. He went from his English GCSE onto further and higher education, later becoming a scientist. The role-model he is for his children and what he contributes to our country must be understood and valued and, as the tutor pointed out, he’d been wasted previously spending the morning in the bookies and the afternoon in the pub.

The next story was of a young man called Fizend, who had walked across Europe from Syria, and then lived in The Jungle at Calais. He arrived in England as an asylum seeker and was told the best he could hope for was to work in a car wash. He admitted an ambition to study English, and arrived at Birmingham Adult Education Services hoping to study for a GCSE. Needless to say, after a successful GCSE, he has carried on his studies and he is now looking forward to starting a Masters Degree in English in September. We were honoured that Fizend attended the event to tell his story and the whole room simultaneously rose to their feet to give him a standing ovation. With no disrespect to car washers, but wouldn’t our country be the less if he’d have followed the original advice?

Next speaking was Dr Mary Mahoney, from the University of Wolverhampton, discussing “The Value of Lifelong Learning”. She highlighted some key points that make it difficult to place a value on this type of education, including the vague definition – what actually is adult education? And what is it about? Is it about employability and skills, or is it about a full-life development and opportunity? She highlighted a few other key challenges: we don’t know what the problem we are trying to solve is and there isn’t an imperative for adult education in the way there is for schools, so schools are favoured. It was an interesting presentation with food for thought. Maybe we need a more united front to be able to really demonstrate the value of adult education?

Next Professor John Holford, from Nottingham University and joint secretary to the Centenary Commission, shared the commission’s recommendations. First, he highlighted the original need for the 1919 report: not just at a time of great reconstruction after the First World War, but at a time when many more people were now entitled to vote. He noted that democracy was growing and changing and, as a result, adult education was viewed as a chance for “building citizenship” and for “life-wide learning”. Next, when focussing on the recommendations, he again highlighted the links between what adults learn and the impact on other aspects of their lives and wider society, which he described as “learning spilling into other domains” of our lives. He also noted a key problem with the current adult education provision in England, which is that the majority of those that are accessing adult education aren’t necessarily those in the most need. A lot of funding goes to the already well-educated, and those that could truly benefit aren’t.

It was such a fantastic event, which I was truly honoured to attend, and I hope it is the start of many such events around the country. We must stand up and advocate for adult education and all share the commission’s 18 recommendations so that, in an uncertain future, adult education gets the value and funding it rightly needs.

(1) The Ministry of Reconstruction’s Report on Adult Education, now more commonly known as the 1919 report.

(Please note: this blog reflects my personal experience of the event and I am happy to be contacted to correct any inaccuracies that may have occurred in my recording of it. I was not asked to review or share the event in any way, but have chosen to do so because I think was fantastic and that the message needs to go out. My views in no way are contributed to my own employer.)