The many benefits of lifelong learning

Local authorities face some big challenges.

How can we increase people’s engagement in their communities? How do we support parents to help their children with their homework? How do we help an ageing population to improve their health and wellbeing? How do we help people to find a good job and build a career?

And how do we do all of this with less money?

The good news is that, while there’s no such thing as a silver bullet, lifelong learning is about as close as you’ll get.

The evidence shows that adults who take part in learning are more likely to be active in their communities, better able to support their children’s learning, have better health and wellbeing, and improve their career prospects.

Lifelong learning benefits people, their families, communities, and our economy.

The bad news is that the number of adults taking part in learning has been falling, in part because the Government has cut the budget in England by 40 per cent. Meanwhile, stark inequalities in access remain, with those who are most likely to benefit from learning the least likely to participate.

That’s why the Learning and Work Institute has been running the Festival of Learning for more than a quarter of a century. Each year, hundreds of learners, tutors, projects and employers are nominated for an award recognising their contribution to lifelong learning and the difference they have made.

It’s always a highlight of my year, getting to meet the inspirational winners, celebrating their achievements at our awards ceremony, and hearing them tell their stories at our annual reception in Parliament. As well as celebrating our winners, their stories can help to inspire more adults to try out learning.

“Lifelong learning benefits people, their families, communities, and our economy”

Local authorities play a central role in lifelong learning. That includes delivering and commissioning adult education directly, as well as building links with other local services so that everyone has a pathway into learning and opportunities to make the most of their talents.

Take Vicky Seagars, our 2019 New Directions award winner (pictured). She wanted to get out of the house and make a positive change in her life. The family liaison officer at her child’s school suggested she attend family learning courses run by Kent Adult Education.

This first step back into education gave her the courage and support she needed to pursue her dream of becoming a midwife, and she is now in the second year of her training, with her children noticing the difference in her.

Or take Talk English, a project run by Manchester City Council’s adult education service, and winner of our 2017 President’s award. It brings together local volunteers with people who have low levels of language skills, through visits to cafes, museums, parks, and community centres.

Around 1,000 volunteers have had training that helps their career prospects and have supported more than 16,500 people to improve their English. It’s a brilliant example of a local authority adult education service bringing people together, benefiting those who take part and the wider community.

Nominations for the 2020 Festival of Learning awards are now open. You have until 11 February to put forward inspiring learners, tutors, employers and projects.

It’s a great way to celebrate the brilliant work that your adult education service does, and a fitting way to recognise the achievements of your local residents.

To find out more about the Festival of Learning and make nominations, please visit www.festivaloearning.org.uk/2020-nominations

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