20th Adult Learners’ Week highlights Tuesday, May 24, 2011 - 11:35
The 20th Adult Learners' Week (14-20 May) in England started with Cultural Diversity Weekend (14-15 May), with events taking place up and down the country to celebrate the benefits of learning through exploring and embracing a range of cultures. This was followed by the National Awards Ceremony on Monday 16 May in Westminster, the first in a series of showcase events to celebrate the remarkable learning journeys of this year's award winners - details of all the 2011 award winners, both national and regional, can be found here.
The national award ceremony was also an opportunity for organisations - the Skills Funding Agency and Next Step, Open University, BBC, Pearson Work Based Learning, Specialist Schools and Academies Trust, Community Learning Champions, Local Government Association and Reed in Partnership - to illustrate their support and passion for adult learning. The ceremony also recognised the great contribution of the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills and the European Social Fund - without whom Adult Learners' Week would not be the success it is.
Perhaps the most unforgettable moment of the entire ceremony was the presentation of the first ever Adult Learners' Week Outstanding Contribution to Adult Learning Award, which was presented to Sir David Attenborough, by Business Secretary, Vince Cable MP.
The Business Secretary was inspired by the ceremony and Adult Learners' Week in general,and chose to write about it in his first ever BIS blog post.
Vince Cable MP was not the only representative of Government to speak at the ceremony - John Hayes, Minister of State for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning, reaffirmed the Government's commitment to adult learning in his speech:
"NIACE's work and the annual showcase of Adult Learners Week have helped to teach Britain that no learning is wasted and that no form of knowledge or skill can be considered a luxury. They have shown that the most important question is not whether one sort of learning is intrinsically more valuable than another, but whether the learning that a person is offered takes them closer to who they want to become, whether that person is more self-aware, more dexterous, more rounded, or simply better-paid. Just as ambitions vary from one learner to another, so, too, do the ways in which they learn best, because learning is for everyone."
NIACE's work and the annual showcase of Adult Learners Week have helped to teach Britain that no learning is wasted and that no form of knowledge or skill can be considered a luxury.
NIACE's Annual Policy Conference - Enriching lives, inspiring learners - took place on Tuesday 17 May at London's British Library, on the theme of Culture, community and inspiration in informal adult learning. This was followed by a Parliamentary Reception on Wednesday 18th May 2011, hosted by the co-chairs of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning. The event was chaired by Kelvin Hopkins MP and guests heard from John Hayes MP, Gordon Marsden MP and Alan Tuckett, NIACE Chief Executive.
Another first for the 20th Adult Learners' Week was the launch of its first Digital Day in England on Friday 20 May, to help open doors to online learning.
The week was also backed by a number of well-known personalities, including TV presenter, Trisha Goddard, Monty Python, Terry Jones, presenter of the One Show, Alex Jones and comedian, Joe Pasquale.
However, NIACE's annual survey of current and recent adult participation in learning highlighted the challenges still facing the future of adult learning. Tough times for adult learners revealed bad news for anyone over the age of 25 trying to improve their prospects through learning - especially men, older people, the least skilled and those outside the labour market - and reported that the number of adults who have taken part in learning over the last three years has fallen from 43 per cent in 2010 to 39 per cent.