Adult education ‘campaigner-in-chief’ hands over the helm at NIACE

It is an honour to be able to pay tribute to Alan Tuckett, who retired from the National Institute for Adult Continuing Education on Wednesday after serving 23 years as its Chief Executive after an inspiring career in our sector.

Professor Tuckett’s journey in adult education began in the mid-70s as a lecturer in Brighton where, after a decision by the Leader of the Council to abolish spending on informal learning, our sector’s campaigner-in-chief fought his first of many battles to defend public spending in adult learning.

But it was in 1988, after serving as one of FE’s youngest Principal’s, when Alan took to the helm of NIACE, where Alan would embark on a mission which would see him, and his organisation, become the epicentre for campaigning for the right to learning for millions of adults across the country.

Over the years, Alan’s passion and dedication has been one of the few constants in further education tallying up a series of impressive wins. Not least amongst these creating Adult Learners’ Week, which puts the spotlight on adult learners, teachers and providers to showcase and celebrate the lifechanging power adult education can wield – now in its 20th year.

It is clear that few in education have left a legacy more laudable, more important or more powerful than the one Alan Tuckett leaves behind this week.”

Under Alan’s stewardship, NIACE has become the authoritative voice in Parliament, and elsewhere, on adult education and particularly the unindulged area of informal learning. It is in no small part down to Alan’s leadership at NIACE that has meant that when budgets across the public sector faced unprecedented cuts in spending, that the Adult Safeguarded Learning budget maintained its budget of £210million; ensuring the vast opportunities that learning provides to millions of adults will continue. More recently, Alan was central to the campaign which last week led to the policy u-turn allowing all ESOL learners seeking work full fee remission regardless of benefits status.

Today, David Hughes, formally Provider Services Director at the Skills Funding Agency , takes over at NIACE while Alan says he plans to, “practise more of what I preach – engaging in learning as a teacher and student, and to step back from organiser to supporter of NIACE’s work.” But what is our loss is the International Council for Adult Education’s gain, where Alan was elected to serve as President until 2015; the first European to hold this office.

They say the most powerful thing you can do as a leader is leave a legacy. It is clear that few in education have left a legacy more laudable, more important or more powerful than the one Alan Tuckett leaves behind this week. For this Alan, you are hereby inducted into the FE Week Hall of Fame and, for us, a #FEhero.

Shane Chowen was until recently the Vice President of FE at the NUS and is now an FE Consultant

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