Download your free copy of the FE Week 16 page special Adult Learners’ Week 2013 supplement, sponsored by apt awards.

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Adults return to education for a variety of reasons.

Some want to change career and some want to progress in the one they’ve got.

Some are looking for a way out of unemployment or a chance to put right what went wrong at school, while some just want to explore different sides of their personalities and broaden their horizons.

Adult Learners’ Week is a chance to honour and showcase the achievements of these learners.

This supplement, produced by FE Week, is a celebration of all of those achievements and opportunities, but, amid the celebrations, it is also a good time to reflect on what the future of adult education might look like.

David Hughes, chief executive of the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) applauds the way adult education “helps people transform their lives”, but admits he feels some “trepidation” looking ahead to the cuts expected in the looming spending review (page 3).

But it’s not just learners whose achievements should be recognised, as Christine Bullock, chief executive of awarding body apt awards, points out (page 3), tutors are often “performing miracles” to help their students.

The issue of investment in adult education is picked up by Skills Minister Matthew Hancock (page 4), who highlights research showing that “every pound invested in apprenticeship provision returns at least £18 of value to the apprentice, their employers and the wider economy,” and pledges the government will “go further” to improve the UK’s skills competitiveness.

Adult Learners’ Week is the catalyst to bring policy, action and real outcomes together”

Meanwhile, Shadow Skills Minister Gordon Marsden warns many older learners will be deterred by the 24+ adult learning loans, and points to the less obvious benefits of adult education such as better health, social cohesion and lower offending rates (page 4).

He calls on policy-makers to consider the impact of learning on government departments other than the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills — a thought echoed by Ruth Spellman, chief executive of the Workers’ Educational Association (page 5), who says “policy makers need to take a holistic view of how adult education impacts the economy”.

For NIACE president Nick Stuart (page 5), the answers to some of these conundrums might be found in Adult Learners’ Week itself, and he is chairing a review into what the festival does well, and what it needs to improve to allow tomorrow’s adult learners the same opportunities, second chances and experiences that all of this year’s winners have encountered on their journey.

Adult Learners’ Week is, he says, “the catalyst to bring policy, action and real outcomes together,” a chance to inform and sway policy-makers at the same time as celebrating achievements.

A total of 87 national and regional awards have been given out to individuals and training schemes this year from 1,412 nominations — and we’ve got some of the inspiring stories of how winners past and present have used education to completely change their lives (see pages 6 and 7).

The week is also an opportunity to encourage more adults to get involved, with over 1,400 events and taster sessions from Indian head massage to plumbing, taking place at colleges, libraries and other venues up and down the country (see pages 10 and 11 for just a handful of these).

The results of the NIACE Adult Participation Survey, revealing who is currently involved in learning and who is not, as well as comment from the survey report’s author Fiona Aldridge can be found on pages 12 and 13.

Coverage of the City Lit Adult Award ceremony and a preview of a special celebration event the week, honouring tutors’ contribution to adult education are on pages 14 and 15.

So, make sure you stay up to date with everything that’s going on this week by following the hashtag #ALW13 or @FEWeek on Twitter.

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