City Lit Blog

The Institutes for Adult Learning response to the College of the Future report

Story added 28th Oct 2020


Chair of the Institutes for Adult Learning (IALs) and Principal of City Lit, Mark Malcomson CBE gives his thoughts on the College of the Future report released today.

We understand the necessity of the Chancellor choosing to narrow the Spending Review to a one-year settlement. Even if the Government cannot provide a detailed forward plan at this time, it is crucial they commit to a vision of the future post-Covid recovery – making lifelong learning a key component. The College of the Future report provides an excellent starting point for this by looking ahead to 2030 whilst being realistic about the present

With the recent Government commitment to the Lifetime Skills Guarantee, this is the perfect time to publish a report which sets out a vision for the next 10 years.

We believe that the report’s focus on People, Place and Productivity is correct, mirroring the approach of the IALs. The IAL network supports adult learners of all ages and backgrounds across the country. The Commission’s emphasis on accessibility is crucial and the college should be seen as a community hub, with learning taking place in settings where adult learners feel comfortable and welcome. Sometimes this may also mean taking learning outside of colleges and into community venues - community learning in colleges and other settings helps build local identity.

The IALs bring many people into learning who would not otherwise be inspired to learn or who are nervous about restarting their education. It is vital that Government invest in as many different types of learning provider as possible so as to offer accessible pathways for those who need it most.

The economic recovery after Covid is a huge challenge and adult education clearly has a vital role to play.  It will expose the needs of many people who are not ready for re-training or re-skilling and building confidence is essential alongside qualifications and technical skills. This is particularly important for people who have a low level of formal skill, those experiencing health effects caused by the pandemic or those who have been in the same sector for decades and unprepared for a career change. 

The link between lifelong learning, gainful employment, and positive mental health is long established.  By supporting those who need to re-skill to access employment; who have high levels of anxiety, depression and other forms of mental health challenges; and by offering a safe and stimulating environment, must be seen as vital to the economic and societal recovery.  

The country needs a seamless framework of adult education providers which enables adult learners to engage at any level at any point, and be able to make informed choices. The network needs to include IALs as key partners – we support adult learners seeking non-accredited routes, specialist support, accessible settings, flexible curriculum and availability around work and other commitments.

We would welcome a national post-16 strategy for lifelong learning which should aim to be as intersectional as possible and not narrowly focused only on employment and skills, vital though they are. Health and wellbeing, engaged citizenship and community cohesion all contribute to thriving communities too and all are enhanced by adult education.

The College of the Future Commission has provided the Government with an excellent starting point and we await the Spending Review and FE White Paper hoping to see many of the recommendations taken up.