City Lit Blog

City Lit supports Love Colleges Week

Story added 17th Oct 2018

In a week when the Association of Colleges are looking to raise the profile of the work of Colleges up and down the country through their ‘Love Colleges Week’ campaign it is pleasing to see that political influencing activity is at the heart of it.   

Lobbying is often seen as a dirty word, with those of us who are engaged in it, using our influencing tactics to ensure that politicians, their staff, civil servants, the media and political thinkers are aware of the issues that we believe are of such important.  But to be heard, when the noise around politics and politicians is so focussed on one main issue – Brexit – is a real challenge.  But society moves on, and even with Brexit looming, other areas of public policy need to be taken seriously - as they have significant impact on us all. Lifelong learning is, arguably, one of those issues and now is the time for politicians to listen, and act.  

So, moments like ‘Love Colleges Week’ and the dedicated thrust of the campaign to inform politicians on the importance of Colleges, their staff, teaching and the invaluable support offered up and down the country is a real opportunity.   

On Wednesday 17 October, which the AoC are calling a National Day of Action, a march to the Houses of Parliament is taking place.  The aim here is to raise awareness around issues of funding and pay with in the College sector. I will be taking part – alongside, I’m sure numerous college Principals, staff and students. Looking at the number of Colleges that are supporting the campaign online, there promises to be a large turnout – and it is numbers that matter for these ‘marches’ to have any sort of impact.   I am sure many from my College and others across London will be keen to ensure their voice is heard as well – although recognising that we do not want our offer of quality teaching to suffer during the day!

However, whilst noise created by these campaigns and the media recognition and coverage is invaluable, so too are the ongoing discussions that I and my colleagues within the sector are having with a range of important stakeholders across the political spectrum. In fact, arguably, it is the behind the scenes conversations that often bear fruit.

For those unsure of what City Lit or in fact what adult education can offer, I would hope it is recognised that lifelong learning is proven to be highly beneficial in work and life - enriching people’s lives, developing resilience and learning new skills.  It is important for everyone, whatever their age or stage in life, to be encouraged, supported and enabled to develop the skills that will contribute to the London economy.  Adult education has a crucial role to play in delivering that.  City Lit offers a broad range of courses and learning opportunities to provide individuals with the knowledge, skills and adaptability to progress in their careers and in society.  

The outcomes from learning are many and varied, but universally positive.  As well as enabling employability skills, the experience of learning in the welcoming, social settings we provide is proven to be effective in combatting loneliness and contributing to mental and physical wellbeing, confidence, motivation and sense of purpose, and participation within the community more broadly. Adult learning has a proven track record of creating opportunities out of challenges.  According to UNESCO, adult learning is ‘one of the keys of the twenty-first century’.  

With our population growing at a faster rate than ever. With people are living longer and staying healthy for longer, and the over 65s will outnumber the under 16s in London by 2035.  In turn, people are working longer, changing jobs and careers more and retiring later.  Therefore, we should look to challenge the perception that education only happens at the start of your life, and that the skills developed then will be sufficient throughout your career or working life.   Adult education colleges provide access to education that overcomes the barriers that adults tell us deter them from continuing to learn – evening and weekend opportunities for those who work; easily accessible courses for the self-employed and gig economy workers who do not have access to staff development programmes; as well as providing a welcoming, adult learning environment for upskilling, developing new skills and improving confidence and resilience.

So, if we are collectively looking to march on Parliament to highlight the worth of the sector, then shouldn’t we also work to change perceptions of the place and critical economic importance of lifelong learning – and the importance policy makers and funders place on it.   The AOC should be applauded for coordinating this one-off moment, but surely there is an opportunity here for politicians to lead the way and champion a campaign that raises awareness of the benefits for Londoners of lifelong learning: happier, healthier and more productive. 

In the work I have lead for City Lit – in talking to politicians; policy makers; civil servants; and the team at the City Hall – I have consistently been looking to ensure it is understood that: to deliver the skills needed, it is vital that we challenge any misconception that education is what you receive as a one-off, early in life, and instead champion lifelong learning to meet the needs, interests and ambitions of Londoners.

By Phil Chamberlain - Executive Director External Engagement at City Lit