Looking ahead to Adult Learners’ Week

As tag lines go, the one being championed as the essence of Adult Learners’ Week, which begins on Saturday, will take some beating.

It reads: “There has never been a more important time to celebrate and promote the benefits of learning – encouraging adults to discover the positive impact learning can have on their lives, their families and their community.”

The Week, spearheaded by the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) is the UK’s largest annual festival of learning, incorporating thousands of events and award ceremonies, with the aim of promoting “every type” of learning.

With just days to go until the beginning of the Week, David Hughes, the chief executive of NIACE, told FE Week that the Week has many elements, with the first event, held on Monday, the Adult Learners’ Week National Award Ceremony.

We just don’t celebrate enough in this country. We have the degree awarding ceremonies, but we don’t really have anything for students leaving school

He said: “It’s about celebrating what adult learning can do for people and about exceptional learners who have changed their lives.

“It’s about recognising the real wider benefits of adult learning. It’s not just about skills or work or leisure or pleasure, it’s about all of these things.”

He added: “What we try to do is showcase people who can provide that. It’s one thing to talk about it, but another for a learner to say ‘this is my story’ and we want people to be empowered by these people to see that they can do it too.

“We just don’t celebrate enough in this country. We have the degree awarding ceremonies, but we don’t really have anything for students leaving school.”

The following day, NIACE will hold its National Policy Conference, in conjunction with The Open University, which will explore the current and emerging challenges and approaches to widening participation in adult education.

Mr Hughes said: “We’re holding a conference on widening participation which is one of the big issues for us. We have John Hayes coming to speak and also employers and learners and people from the community.”

He added: “Widening participation is the largest issue we’ve got. The focus on apprenticeships is a good thing, but they are expensive.

“There are three areas under pressure; employers, the government and the individual. It does cost more to do widening participation really well.”

The Week will continue on Wednesday with a Parliamentary Reception.

Mr Hughes said: “We have a parliamentary reception with the all-party group for further education and skills, where we’ve invited former award winners to come back and speak.

“It’s great, because it helps to show that adult learning is not just for Christmas, so to speak.

“Most go on to do more learning or achieve more in life, whether it’s work or helping to mentor, or getting involved in their community.

When you have over one million who are NEET, you worry about them making a difference to their lives.

He added: “When you have over one million who are NEET, you worry about them making a difference to their lives.

“It’s a generation of young people who may be one, two or three years not in work or training, and not being hopeful and optimistic.”

But the Week is not just about events on a national scale, it is also about localised activities, as Mr Hughes explains.

“Another big part is that we have thousands of events across the country so people can drop in and have a go locally at adult learning.

“Around 100,000 people have previously taken part in these types of events during ALW and that’s really important to the Week.”

For more information on Adult Learners’ Week, visit http://www.alw.org.uk/.

Alternatively, follow NIACE on Twitter and join in by tweeting about your Learners’ Week activity by using #ALW12.