Adult Community Education: Supporting place and people: Characteristics of success

Dr Susan Pember OBE, HOLEX

This report is both timely and necessary. It comes at a moment when lifelong learning is high on the political agenda and the importance of place as an organising principle of learning provision is increasingly recognised. Adult community education contributes significantly to both these agendas, placing it at the centre of policy interest in further education and skills, which is why the Further Education Trust for Leadership is so pleased to support this work.

Adult community education is one of the most resilient and creative parts of the education system. It has survived swinging cuts to its public support, yet it continues to make its vital contribution to the social, civic and economic wellbeing of our communities, retaining its values and mission in spite of changing policy agendas and the hollowing out of local authority funding over the past decade.

At the heart of this mission is the idea of service – service to learners and to communities. The sector puts these considerations first, working in close partnership with local authorities, employers and voluntary and community-sector organizations to ensure the needs of learners are properly articulated and understood, and creating conditions in which learners – particularly the most vulnerable or hardest to reach – can engage with education.

Partnership is crucial, of course, and the sector has demonstrated its capacity to work intelligently and effectively with a range of partners. But, as the report also shows, underpinning this success is a number of other key factors, including a clear sense of vision and direction for the work, a sensible approach to monitoring and assessment, effective internal and external communications, and a commitment to the continuing professional development of staff.

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