Lib Dem education policy welcomed by NIACE

16 September 2013

Learning for Life – Education and skills from upper secondary to lifelong learning, passed by the Liberal Democrat party at their annual conference yesterday, states that:

“Liberal Democrats recognise that as compared to the provisions for HE and apprenticeships for the 18-24 age group post-25 adult education is poorly treated while likely to become over time an increasingly important part of the educational system of the country.”

David Hughes, NIACE Chief Executive, said:

“NIACE welcomes these policy proposals from the Lib Dems and will also be pushing for better learning policy at the Labour and Conservative parties in the coming weeks, using our recent policy briefing. We believe that adult learning supports a stronger economy, promotes social mobility and is vital for the UK’s prosperity and wellbeing.

“The Lib Dem policy puts the prospective learner’s experience and needs right at its heart. It also acknowledges that re-skilling and lifelong learning are crucial to employability, well-being and quality of life and recognises that employers need to be persuaded that a skilled workforce will improve productivity and the bottom line, as well as being more satisfying for employees.

“The paper is unashamed in stating that the prioritisation of funding for people under the age of 25 means that there will be little extra funding for other adult learners in the near future.

“Despite this, it makes two important linked proposals for adult learning. First, it puts back on the table a comprehensive system of Lifelong Learning Accounts. This gives learners more real control over the public investment in learning and has the potential to give them more parity with the powers for employers to direct skills budgets.

“The second proposal is to establish, in the next Parliament, a cross-party Commission to secure a long-term funding settlement for the public funding of re-skilling and lifelong learning. We know that a cross-party commission will be powerful, as evidenced by Lord Dearing’s reforms of higher education and more recently by the landmark developments in adult social care (the Dilnot Review) and pension (the Turner Review). For lifelong learning to merit such treatment would be a recognition of its strategic value and a prize worth securing.

“The motion on the paper was passed and is now Liberal Democrat policy. Whether the proposals make it into the party’s 2015 manifesto is far from certain, so there is much more work to be done by NIACE, its members and other organisations.”