Lifelong Learning

March 31, 2000

This is an abridged and edited version of the report of the National Advisory Group for Continuing Education and Lifelong Learning

The agenda

There are ten points we believe can be achieved within the lifetime of this Parliament.

* A new strategic framework is needed in place of the partial, fragmented, uneven and incomplete arrangements which exist in the United Kingdom.

* A major national publicity campaign should be launched aimed at changing attitudes.

* A clear commitment to widening anddeepening participation and achievementin learning.

* Increased emphasis on the home, community and workplace as key places of learning.

* Red tape must be cut and work should begin on the creation of a new national credit framework with a record of accreditation.

* Consideration should be given to theformation of Lifelong Learning Forums.

* The provision of up-to-date, accessible and impartial information and advice will be essential.

* Provision needs to be fully mapped and audited so that a clearer view of needs canbe secured.

* Particular attention should be given to widening access to new informationtechnology.

* All providers, sponsors and funders of learning should review and modify their own practices and arrangements to ensure that these stimulate a far wider group ofparticipants and do not constitute barriers and incentives to lifelong learning.Government should take the lead in setting up a new Lifelong Learning Millennium Foundation, drawing on lottery funding.

The challenges

The list of groups under-represented across the whole range of post-school education and training still appears to be disturbingly long.It includes:

Unskilled manual workers

Part-time and temporary workers

People without qualifications

Unemployed people

Some groups of women - notably lone parents, and those on the lowest incomes

Those living in remote or isolated locations

Some ethnic and linguistic minority groups

Older adults

People with learning difficulties and/or disabilities

People with literacy and/or numeracy difficulties

Ex-offenders

Disaffected young adults, and notably young men

All funders and providers of lifelong learning should audit the provision under their control and the social composition and achievements of the learners involved in order to identify unacceptable biases or absences and take steps to remove them.

The obstacles

Learners from under-represented groupstypically face obstacles created by:

Shortage of the money for course feesand related expenses

Lack of confidence

Lack of outreach provision

Lack of tutorial support when studying

Lack of personal support

Courses organised at inappropriate times and inaccessible places designed to be economic for the provider rather than the learner.

A culture of lifelong learning

At the centre of our advice, and informing all the proposals in this report, is our view that the publication of a white paper on lifelong learning represents a major opportunity for the government to set out its vision of a culture of lifelong learning for all. Learning must become normal and accessible, and learners must be put at the centre, taking increased ownership of their own learning and its management throughout life. Variety and diversity of learning opportunities is key. Prejudice must be challenged and there must be better information and guidance. Responsibility and resources must be shared.

Core principles

Coherence

We believe that the government's principal strategic aim should be to develop a coherent system of education throughout life. The different stages, elements and levels of learning should all be compatible with each other and all be guided by the same core principles. Lifelong learning cannot begin post-school, post-compulsory education or post-16. It must be exactly as its name suggests: learning throughout life. This will mean building a system in which different parts of the system support and reinforce a learning culture for all, where pathways and movement from one element of the system to another are facilitated as far as practicable. No part of the system should look to another principally to compensate for its own failure to stimulate commitment to learning and promote achievement.

Equity

Lifelong learning should be for the many, not the few. This will mean adopting measures designed to widen opportunities, increase participation and overcome the barriers faced by those excluded from the benefits and pleasures of learning throughout life. Learning, and having access to it throughout life, should be thought of as a normal part of everyone's membership of our society. It should constitute a key element of modern citizenship. There should be no penalties attached to the particular modes, routes or methods of learning chosen by learners to achieve their goals. Those responsible for funding learning should give particular attention to this principle, adapting their funding regimes and methodologies to promote equity. Resources should be so deployed to further the principles of equity and inclusion, with appropriate rewards going to those organisations and institutions that can demonstrate their genuine commitment to creating a learning culture for all and manifest this in their achievements. To ensure progress, government and all other providers of learning should set targets and review progress towards the achievement of widening participation.

People before structures

The focus of policy and practice should be learners themselves and the quality and range of learning opportunities made available to them. This would shift attention away from structures and institutions, which should be regarded as more or less efficient mechanisms for the delivery of demonstrably high-quality learning in their given spheres. The support offered to learners should enable them increasingly to assume ownership of their own learning as they progress through life. The needs and voices of the learners should be given sufficient opportunities to be expressed, heard and responded to and organisations' success in this too should be subject to review. Government itself should work to secure the simplification and rationalisation of qualifications and credits, including the development of a national credit framework, the facilitation of credit accumulation and transfer and the development of a national system for registering achievement.

Variety and diversity

Lifelong learning should be for all aspects of life and meet a variety of needs and objectives. It should foster personal and collective development, stimulate achievement, encourage creativity, provide and enhance skills, contribute to the enlargement of knowledge itself, enhance cultural and leisure pursuits and underpin citizenship and independent living. This will require recognition of and support for a wide range of learning, undertaken in different locations, in various forms and through different routes.

Engaging the whole of government

While the Department for Education and Employment should properly be the main host and champion of lifelong learning, other departments of state should develop their own strategies and targets for the creation of a learning culture in this country and in its relationship with countries overseas. Government's own policies and practice should be scrutinised to ensure the maximum possible support for its strategy for lifelong learning and to ensure that they do not themselves constitute barriers and disincentives to learn. Government should also be prepared to use the whole panoply of its powers, as both carrots and sticks, to secure the development of a learning culture for all, including funding and resource allocation, legislation and statutory intervention.

Quality and flexibility

Those charged with responsibility for funding, promoting or overseeing provision should take appropriate steps to inculcate good habits in the delivery of high-quality and flexible provision of learning opportunities. They should do this through inspection, audit, fostering a culture of self-assessment and through improvements to the training, development and qualifications of staff whose job it is to teach and support learners.

Effective partnerships

Government itself will look to those concerned with the promotion of lifelong learning to form effective and inclusive partnerships, with a view to enhancing opportunities for learning. Local strategic partnerships, involving all with a legitimate voice and interest (including learners and potential learners themselves), should coordinate initiatives, pool resources, audit provision and establish agreed targets and plans for action. These should reflect closely educational action plans for schools and seek to complement them. Some funding should be dependent upon demonstrating the effectiveness of genuine partnerships, measured against agreed criteria, and those feeling excluded from partnerships where they believe they should rightly be involved should have scope for complaint.

Shared responsibility

Responsibility for lifelong learning and the development of a learning culture for all should be shared between government, other public authorities and bodies, employers, providers and individuals. Government should establish the overall strategy, after due consultation with the other stakeholders, and should allocate appropriate resources in line with the other principles sketched out above, but investment in lifelong learning should be seen as a responsibility for all. One of the main changes needed is one in which all people accept their own share of responsibility for their continued engagement with the development of their own learning throughout life. In turn, government should consider what other arrangements, including in the fields of fiscal and taxation policy, might be used to stimulate and support those who can show their own acceptance of responsibility for enhancing lifelong learning and contributing towards the creation of a learning culture.

Standards and benchmarks

We believe these core principles should be subject to widespread consultation and to further refinement. Once they are agreed they should be used as standards and benchmarks against which to measure present and future policy and practice at all levels. They should apply particularly to the implementation of the four flagship projects already announced by the government (the New Deal, the University for Industry, individual learning accounts and the National Grid for Learning). They should also underpin the responses to the Kennedy report on widening participation and the Dearing reports on 16-19 qualifications and higher education.

Implementation of lifelong learning for all: functions, roles and responsibilities

Attention will have to be paid to the following key functions:

* Securing a large and systematic expansion in the number of people who are, and regard themselves as being, lifelong learners and increasing the number of organisationsaiming to become learning organisations.

* Ensuring far wider participation by those social groups under-represented in all forms of learning.

* Recognising the validity, without penalty, of an enlarged range of modes of study, whether part-time or full-time, residential or non-residential.

* Encouraging a variety of forms of learning characterised by flexibility, includingdistance and open learning, in the home, in the community or at work.

* Stimulating greater ownership and control over the development of their learning by individuals, families, groups andcommunities.

* Enabling the achievements of learners to be properly recognised and recorded in ways that mark progress, attest to standards, facilitate progression and mobility and serve as an encouragement to further learning.

* Establishing common approaches to the establishment and maintenance of quality.

* Making sure that all forms and methods of the dissemination and application of knowledge are recognised and equitably rewarded.

* Paying attention to the overall volume of funding provided for learning and its promotion and delivery, as well as to the proper balance of funding between levels and within funding regimes, between the needs of different learners and programmes of learning.

Measuring activity and achievement

Richer, more sophisticated measures of learning activity are urgently needed, especially locally, based upon new criteria and methods of data collection and reflecting the diversity of forms and locales of lifelong learning. Researchers and statisticians from universities and colleges can lend their support to the development of more sensitive and appropriate national indicators of involvement in lifelong learning. Such indicators should embrace more than age-participation rates alone, especially those which are concerned principally with the situation of young adults, important though these are. We need to know much more about learning activities and opportunities throughout life, in all sorts of settings, particularly in respect of those under-represented in lifelong learning.

Wider publicity should also be given to examples of good practice in opening up participation that are susceptible to more general application. We need more research and better consolidation and dissemination of research findings. Here is another arena in which university-based and other researchers, working increasingly in partnership, can make a further valuable contribution to building a culture of lifelong learning for all.

The government

The government needs to prepare the ground to put in place the opportunities, resources and structures that will promote a culture of lifelong learning for all. In our view this would represent the most exciting millennium project of all.

Cross-government involvement

All government departments should plan and monitor the implementation of the main strategy in their own spheres of responsibility. Government will also need to review its fiscal and taxation policies with a view to using them to provide incentives that promote lifelong learning and encourage learners themselves to invest in learning. Government should also review the allocation of funds to education generally, and those identified for the promotion of lifelong learning in particular, including funds for the proposed Lifelong Learning Foundation, University for Industry and individual learning accounts. Such a review should also explore ways in which other sources of public funding, for example, through the benefits system, could be used more effectively to support people in lifelong learning, as has already been suggested by the Kennedy committee on widening participation. Arrangements should be put in place to maintain close liaison with the cabinet unit established to combat social exclusion in this country.

New national targets

We recognise the valuable contribution to raising awareness and standards made by establishing and working towards the National Education and Training Targets. Government will need to take the lead in setting out new targets and objectives, with appropriate milestones and mechanisms to review progress, making sure that suitable provision is made for recognising non-vocational achievement and elements towards NVQs and GNVQ qualifications.

A new national Millennium Foundation

We believe that building the new culture of lifelong learning for all will be helped by the establishment of a new national body, with special responsibility to carry through the strategic priorities laid down by the government. With this in mind, we recommend that the government should build upon the proposals of the Kennedy committee to establish a learning regeneration fund, drawing upon funding from the National Lottery, once the major millennium projects have been financed. To this end, we recommend that government should take the lead in setting up a new lifelong learning Millennium Foundation to promote innovation, disseminate good practice, and "pump prime" new initiatives. Its principal aims should be to:

* Foster innovation in lifelong learning

* Support specific initiatives to develop lifelong learning for non-participant groups

* Encourage projects which support learning through the family and in the community

* Distribute funding via regional partnership arrangements or, where they exist, regional lifelong learning forums.

Finance and funding

We believe that a major challenge in the establishment of a learning culture for all will be for the funding of lifelong learning to be systematically strengthened over time. The clear challenge will be to:

* Expand the total volume of funding from all sources, devoted to supporting lifelong learning

* Release maximum leverage from public investment

* Stimulate employer investment for all employees in all sectors of the economy

* Encourage increased individual investment

* Create a regulatory and funding regime where institutions are responsive to the needs of lifelong learners.

Achieving this will require both a shift in the overall balance of funding within and between forms and levels of learning activity and initiatives designed to achieve an increase in the aggregate amount of funding devoted to lifelong learning from all sources, public and private.

We also believe that a strong and convincing case needs to be made for additional public funding to be committed to lifelong learning. We recognise that, as things stand, there is little scope for such an increase.

One way of beginning this process, step by step, would be to have phased approach along the following lines:

Phase one

The government should adopt the proposal made by the Dearing committee that student loans be treated as investment in the national accounts, rather than expenditure. The government should press for the international acceptance of the OECD finance ministers' advice that human resource investment should be treated like physical capital in national accounts, and be written down over a number of years. Moneys saved by these measures should be reinvested in the expansion of post-school learning.

Phase two

The government should adopt the Kennedy proposal that the millennium lottery fund be succeeded by a learning fund, with a remit to foster the creation of a learning society. Educational initiatives should be central to the Millennium exhibition in 2000. The Audit Commission, government and institutions could work to develop more effective social audit measures to capture non-cash based activity, and less quantifiable learning gain, to enable policy planners to capture better the value added by investment in lifelong learning.

Phase three

Political parties should consider including proposals in their election manifestos for the next general election for increasing public, employer, individual and other funding of lifelong learning.

Funding different modes and levels of learning

There is considerable disparity in student support available to further education against full-time higher education students. This manifests itself in mandatory grants (until now), loans and access funds. We note also the evidence that the overwhelming majority of working-class participants in post-school education use further education. We recognise, too, that endorsement of the Kennedy committee's principles would involve a transfer of funding within further education. Established students over 19, with the ability to pay, would need to pay more of the costs of provision.

Principles

Public funding should aim:

* To widen participation to include people currently excluded from existing provision

* To concentrate the release of new public resources on those who have not yet achieved qualifications to NVQ Level 3

* To stimulate employer investment for all employees in all sectors of the economy

* To encourage increased individual investment in learning, including through use of individual learning accounts

* To create a regulatory and funding regime where institutions are responsive to the needs of lifelong learners.

Similarly, we believe that the principles informing access to public funds should be the same for part-time students as for full-time ones. We recommend that the government move towards equalising public investment for the same "episode of learning" irrespective of sector. As an initial step towards this, consideration should be given to moving towards a position in which student loans are made available on a means-tested basis to both part-time and full-time learners in further and higher education and for those over 50. Plans could be made for such a policy to be implemented as soon as practicable, when the new system of funding full-time students in higher education has been implemented.

Other funding issues

The government might wish to begin to address, in consultation with relevant organisations, the following:

* The introduction of incentives to learn for people unemployed for short periods

* The further expansion of the Workskill pilot programmes.

* The use of Schedule 2(d) of the 1992 Further and Higher Education Act to ensure that adults taking a first step back to learning can benefit from the new learning pathway.

* The use, until better measures for assessing need are found, of postcodes to identify learners from under-represented groups, and to provide funding incentives to institutions to recruit from those areas.

* The shift in the balance of expenditure needed to widen participation in further education, to be met by changing the proportion of fees paid by individuals and employers, rather than by a narrowing of the range of courses funded by FEFC.

* The possible extension of the FEFC's powers under the 1992 Further and Higher Education Act to permit spending in curriculum areas where the duty lies with the LEAs.

* The steps that government should take to ensure that changes arising from the European Union's Agenda 2000 do not lead to a diminution in investment in education and training in the United Kingdom.

* Whether government should consider reasserting its policy of treating education provision for adults offered by higher, further and LEA sector bodies, and by not-for-profit voluntary organisations with an educational remit, as non-business activities. They could then fall outside the scope of VAT, except where institutions apply to Customs and Excise for permission to be treated as exempt.

* Whether government should consider exempting expenditure on books, information technology and other learning equipment and other educational materials from VAT where used for education provision by those bodies.

* Whether the provisions made in the 1996 budget extending the range of studies qualifying for tax remission, where the employer pays the fees, to include non-vocational courses, could be similarly broadened where individuals meet their own costs.

* Whether priority in the allocation of lifelong learning funds through the proposed Millennium Foundation should be accorded to initiatives aimed at raising participation among minority ethnic and linguistic communities.

Learners and potential learners

We believe that government should explore the wider use of individual learning accounts as a funding mechanism to increase commitment to and involvement in lifelong learning.Where they are made available, individuals, companies and other sponsors should be actively encouraged to contribute to them.

Marketing, outreach, development and recruitment

Providers, stimulated by leadership from the University for Industry, will need to devise innovative methods of marketing. More support will have to be given to programmes of outreach and development work.

Recognition and support will also need to be given to those organisations and bodies already working in the community and who demonstrate understanding of community needs and have already won the trust of the members of the communities or groups in question. Many of these organisations exist on a shoestring and short-term budgets and yet they perform vital functions.

In lifelong learning, recruitment to programmes of study will occur throughout the year and this will require adjustment to the organisation of learning programmes. Once recruited, as research has already demonstrated, new kinds of student, with different backgrounds and different educational biographies, will require new and often additional forms of support - financial, organisational, educational and emotional. As new groups of learners are drawn into lifelong learning, so the institutions which seek to meet their needs will also need to change.

Promoting lifelong learningat the workplace

To date, the success of the largely voluntary approach to promoting learning at work which operates in this country has been patchy. Some employers invest extensively in staff learning, while others make very little provision. Reluctant employers have to be encouraged to recognise that investment in learning will not only meet short-term needs but also lay the foundation for long-term success. Particular effort needs to be directed towards supporting lifelong learning in small businesses and among those who are self-employed.

One way of extending learning opportunities to those in smaller firms is through links in the supply chains from smaller to larger companies. Larger employers or consortia should also consider extending the availability of workplace learning centres to the families of staff and to people in the local community.

Local colleges and universities and other providers could establish dedicated teams of professionals whose job it would be to go into companies to help establish both the case for workplace learning and the range of potential learners' needs.

Provision should also be made, possibly through a web site, for up-to-date intelligence on employment availability, immediately and in the future, self-assessment of learning needs and a directory of training opportunities to meet those needs.

A code of good practice for workplace learning should be adopted which would set out guidelines and minimum standards for the promotion of workplace learning.

Priority in workplace learning should be given to low-waged workers and those with the lowest levels of skill. It should be recognised that the principal responsibility for staff and skills development lies with employers. Government should urgently explore ways in which to extend opportunities for the unwaged, unemployed and those on benefits.

A key question in developing workplacelearning is "who should pay for what?" It isreasonable to expect employers to fund task-specific or job-related learning. Employers with, perhaps, some support from government should also fund parallel and transferableskills learning.

There is, however, a strong case for individuals contributing to their personal development learning through individual learning accounts. Individual learning accounts contributed to by government, employers and individuals have potentially great merit. However, they should not be used to shift responsibility for learning entirely to the individual. Moreover, it has to be recognised that many low-paid workers would have great difficulty in contributing cash to an account and should be able to contribute "in kind". The existence of individual learning accounts should not lead to a situation where those who already benefit most from learning and who can afford to contribute to an account, become the main beneficiaries from a new approach to workplace learning.

We recommend that individual learning accounts should be available for all people in employment, targeting those in SMEs, those with the lowest levels of skill and the self-employed. Another simple addition might be to provide every individual with a learning entitlement of free provision up to the equivalent of NVQ level 3. Learning above that level requiring some contribution from the individual.

Government support to employers and individuals could also take the form of tax breaks as well as direct payments into individual learning accounts.

Learning at home and in the community

The task of extending lifelong learning into the community cannot be left entirely to provision through the formal institutions of education. The aim is progressively to develop a national culture of lifelong learning for all.

Learning at home and in the community can represent a resource with which to challenge continued social exclusion, especially that which is too often reinforced through the institutions of education themselves. Government, funders and providers of learning should recognise the valuable contribution which learning at home and in the community can make.

Supporting family learning

Supporting family learning will include, but go beyond, the valuable initiatives in developing family literacy, which have already been started. Family learning has just as much to offer parents, grandparents and other family members, as it has to support children in particular. Local authorities should be encouraged to foster inter-agency collaboration in providing a wide range of family learning initiatives, and government should make a commitment to expand provision of family literacy programmes.

Active citizenship and democracy

In our view, due recognition and support should be given by public authorities to those initiatives which promote citizenship through learning for individuals and groups, whether or not it leads to formal qualification. Providers should consider adding to their existing curriculum programmes of study to support citizenship.

Learning in the community

Government, public authorities, funders and providers of learning should all recognise and support community learning designed topromote capacity building and community development.

Voluntary organisations and community groups

Voluntary organisations and community groups have a vital role to play in the development of education for active citizenship.Nevertheless they can work effectively only where their distinctive contribution is fullyvalued by the statutory partners that oftencontrol budgets.

Local learning centres

Such centres are central to the vision of the University of Industry. They should enrich the learning capacity of village halls in rural communities, develop the role of libraries and museums, and build on college learning resource centres. There will be centres in workplaces, church halls, and primary schools.

Government should encourage school governors and heads to make school premises available for lifelong learning purposes, as a priority when not in use for school educational activities. The University for Industry should broker a network of learning access points over the UK, using public and private spaces and exploiting public/private alliances and joint funding possibilities.

Steps should be taken to ensure that approved local learning centres are connected to, and supported by, the National Grid for Learning. Funding bodies should requireinstitutions which they support to increase access for learners by weekend and longer day opening. Small grants should be made available to local voluntary and community groups, to enhance network access points and to encourage those groups to use new technologies.

Young people

We propose that government should define the level of service to young people to be secured by local authorities, which should be required to convene inter-agency forums on provision for young people in informal learning, with a remit to shape youth strategies and development plans.

Provision for older people

Effective provision for older people will depend upon strengthening the provision of the adult education it is local authorities' duty to secure. But it also needs effective collaboration between government departments to ensure that health promotion and education policy is harmonised.

Minority ethnic and linguistic groups

All funders and providers of lifelong learning should give particular attention to the learning needs of black, Asian, minority ethnic and linguistic groups. Consideration should be given to the establishment of an Overseas Qualifications Assessment Agency or Branch, or equivalent, to overcome the waste of resource and individual exclusion caused by the lack of effective mechanisms for recognising qualifications awarded overseas.

Prisoners and ex-offenders

Those responsible for the provision and monitoring of prison education services should give particular attention to the needs of prisoners who move or leave prisons during the course of their learning programmes.

The role and responsibilities oflocal authorities

A new national strategy to develop a culture of lifelong learning for all should recognise the key role of local authorities as strategic planners, coordinators, partners and providers. This should be recognised in government guidance and in the allocation of resources.

Public authorities and other agencies implementing strategy

Within the strategic framework developed by government, responsibility for carrying through and applying the objectives in their own spheres, will fall to a group of public authorities and other agencies. This will include local authorities, government regional offices, the major funding councils, and such other diverse bodies as Qualification and Curriculum Authority, TECs and LECs, TEC National Council, NACETT, the Basic Skills Agency and NIACE. This will include contributing to and, on occasion, leading the strategic partnerships necessary for success.

Key local partners, such as TECs and LECs, colleges, universities and employers should recognise the role and responsibilities of local authorities and their key role in helping to develop a culture of lifelong learning for all in our society.

Lifelong learning partnerships and forums

It would prove prohibitively expensive for government immediately to commit large amounts of new funds to meet the full range of learning aspirations of local communities in the short run. Much will be expected from the creative use of existing resources, and from new resources released by imaginative partnerships.

Regional and sub-regional coordination

At a regional level, lifelong learning partnerships should forge close links with the various government offices and with the emerging regional development agencies, with high-level cooperation between all three becoming a notable feature. Strategic partnerships should be innovative and flexible in their search for additional resources, including from the European Union, from private sources and from pooling their own efforts. Where appropriate, public funding bodies, such as the funding and research councils, single regeneration budgets and competitiveness funds should earmark funds especially to support collaboration.

Funders and other sponsors of learning

The contribution of existing funding bodies (such as the universities' and colleges' funding councils, research councils, local authorities and employers and those allocating the various challenge and European funds available) will be critical to the success of the whole project. To them will fall responsibility of allocating resources to help achieve the overall vision, in line with the core principles to be laid down by government.

The FEFC

The main tasks in widening participation in further education have already been set out for the FEFC, in some detail, by the Kennedy committee. We support its recommendations. They need to be taken up systematically by the FEFC in the second stage of its fundamental review of the funding methodology, giving particular attention to the additional support needed to recruit and promote the achievement of disadvantaged learners who are currently under-represented in further education. The FEFC also needs to develop clear policies and funding arrangements to promote inclusive learning, and the development of inclusive learning environments, among all providers within its remit.

Learners from under-represented groups and backgrounds should be "unit rich" and those institutions, which demonstrate a capacity to enhance participation from under-represented groups should be appropriately rewarded. Once this is completed, new targets, benchmarks and performance indicators should be established for each recipient of FEFC funding.

We also believe that the FEFC should open discussions, first with the Local Government Association and then with government, on a number of other funding questions. These should include the future of "discretionary" awards, access funds and how best local authorities should in future be given access to apply for FEFC funding, bearing in mind the increased strategic role we envisage for them in the promotion of a culture of lifelong learning for all.

HEFCE

In like manner, it will be the responsibility of HEFCE to secure funding to promote wider access to the rich diversity of higher education identified by the Dearing committee as one of the higher education system's most important strengths. As lifelong learning for all develops, more people are likely to look either to their local institution of higher education for part-time programmes of learning or further afield for high-quality distance or open-learning programmes. Mechanisms need to be in place to facilitate such developments and to support them with appropriate funding.

Appropriate reward systems will also need to be devised which recognise excellence in teaching and in the wider dissemination and application of high-quality research through means additional to those of scholarly publication. In this latter regard, it would be useful for HEFCE to explore ways in which its pilot projects in widening participation can be embedded in mainstream funding.

Where necessary, funding councils for further and higher education, and other funding bodies, should take steps to adjust their funding methodologies to widen participation in lifelong learning. Where partnerships clearly promote access to lifelong learning, both between educational institutions and with other potential learning partners, special tranches of money should be identified to reward such initiatives and appropriate measurements of success should be introduced.

Learning providers

Further education

Further education colleges need to review their own contact with local communities noting areas of under-representation from particular localities, groups or potential learners and adopting policy priorities to reach out to them. This will require strengthening their own research and intelligence skills, possibly by closer working with local authorities, TECs and universities.

Institutions of higher education

The particular contribution of higher education lies in its proper concern with extending knowledge, and the skills of handling and applying knowledge in our society. Institutions in the sector will do this through excellence in teaching, research and dissemination. Their commitment to strengthening the quality of the professions and to continuing professional development is also essential.

In future, universities and colleges are likely to see the enormous growth of part-time study, distance learning and technology-based programmes. The universities themselves can be centres for the development of excellence in all of these, working in close partnership with other providers and users of learning.

Universities and colleges should see themselves as making a major contribution to local, regional, national and international partnerships in lifelong learning. Those staff who engage in developing these partnerships and in disseminating the benefits of university learning should themselves be recognised and appropriately rewarded.

Students in further and higher education, whether at pre-degree, undergraduate or postgraduate levels, also represent a huge potential resource to assist with the development of learning cultures locally. They can assist with audit and needs analysis, act as mentors, take part in provision and become ambassadors and publicists for lifelong learning. In appropriate circumstances, their contributions could be formally recognised and credited within their own learning programmes. All of this should become even more possible as part-time involvement in both higher and further education continues throughout life. In these ways, and others, students could become very useful members of local partnerships.

The secret of success will be for different sorts of strategic partnership to make the most of the rich diversity and full range of universities. This will be possible only if the institutions themselves first ask themselves how best their particular expertise or opportunities for learning might best be brought to the service of the community. Once this has been done, the availability and means of accessing expertise and learning opportunities need to be brought to the attention of the potential beneficiaries, with due attention being paid to breaking down the barriers and obstacles in the way of access and collaboration.

If universities, other institutions of higher education and colleges are to be properly expansive and generous in their approach to strategic partnerships, senior managers in them should ensure that the internal reward and promotion systems give appropriate recognition to the individuals and departments which promote them.

Other providers

Major contributions to lifelong learning are also made by such bodies as the Workers' Education Association, Adult Residential Colleges and various independent foundations dedicated to promoting adult learning and especially to widening participation. These providers of learning represent a small, dedicated and valuable resource and their continuing contribution to lifelong learning should be properly acknowledged and supported, with due recognition being given to the distinctiveness of their various missions and educational functions.

The contribution of libraries

In the information society their value will increase, not diminish. Libraries can help people meet the challenges we have identified in all sorts of ways: they can be at once resources in responding to change and new circumstances and agents of change themselves. They can act as a first port of call for citizens' and consumers' information and be an arena for the accountability of local services and different forms of participation. They can provide access to a better and wider understanding of the changes marking our society and the kinds of response which are possible. They can be a resource for community development and the improvement of individual skills and educational attainment. They can support increases in competitiveness and economic success. In short, libraries can enhance understanding, achievement and autonomy. They need to be appropriately modernised, in both provision and outlook, to fulfil this potential.

Libraries need to be linked up, both to each other and to other strategic partnerships through local area and regional networks, through the internet and the new National Grid for Learning. Attention should be paid to making sure that the voice of libraries is represented at appropriate levels in the construction of strategic partnerships. Measures should be taken to ensure that the libraries themselves are adequately equipped to provide the new range of services and to do so in ways which widen access and guarantee accessibility.

Guidance and advice

We recommend that arrangements should be made to move quickly to the provision of a universal entitlement to high-quality initial educational information and advice free to the user, leading to more specialised services (for which some charges might be made). For some groups of learners, and some curriculum areas further guidance would be free. The entitlement would be accessed through Learning Direct and local information networks. To meet individual, community and industrial needs such networks, comprising careers services, further and higher education institutions and other guidance services, should collaborate so that adults are offered a seamless, independent and impartial service.

Staff training and development

Investment in staff development and training will be essential if the vision of a culture of lifelong learning for all is to become a reality. Staff will need the highest order of skills to stimulate learning, support learning and engender the habits of lifelong learning among those whom they teach, guide and advise.

Government should establish a strategy for expanding the teaching force in lifelong learning, and improving the relevance of their skills. They should set a target year by when all tutors employed in publicly fundedprogrammes should have taken part inrecognised and high-quality training and development, with many more achieving an appropriate qualification for teaching adults. It should also establish funding arrangements for the training of teachers of adults in all sectors and agencies.

Quality assurance

Much of the pressure in quality assurance work in recent years has focused on theidentification and monitoring of planned and quantifiable outcomes from learning programmes. To some extent, this has privileged predicted learning outcomes over those revealed, learned in the process, and has focused on the short-term and easily measured rather than longer-term measures, and those involving qualitative judgement. It has also centred on individual as against grouplearning.

Changes in the pattern of work have posed challenges to auditors, in the audit of non-waged work and its contribution to the national economy. A similar challenge exists for educators, and the quality assurance agencies, to develop rigorous audit tools that better reflect the complexity of "learning gain" in lifelong learning. This task would be helped if the inspectorates currently working for Ofsted, FEFC, the new Training Inspectorate and the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education could harmonise their approach to inspection, establishing common methods, criteria and perspectives in inspection. Inspection staff could either conduct joint inquiries or work in discrete arenas, but within a broadly common framework, increasingly sharing their experience and the outcomes oftheir work.

The aim should be to move to a situation where all certificated and uncertificated lifelong learning provision is backed by effective quality assurance. Progress should be made towards the establishment of common standards and benchmarks and by systematic training and development in quality assurance for the staff concerned.

We propose that government should encourage early discussions between the main educational inspectorates, with a view to moving towards the harmonisation and standardisation of quality assurance systems across the sectors where adults learn. Within such discussions, consideration should be given to how the overlapping but different duties of Ofsted, the FEFC Inspectorate, the HE Quality Assurance Agency, and the new Training Inspectorate might be performed within a common inspection framework, enabling inspection staff to work together or even across boundaries where necessary. In addition, the various inspectorates could share staff training and development events, exchange experience, carry out joint investigations and produce joint reports.

Measuring achievement

Unfortunately, current methods of indicating and measuring achievement do not embrace all forms, varieties and levels of learning. Many sorts of learning go unrecognised, are unregistered and remain unrecorded. Moreover, we still lack simple, understandable and universally employed frameworks in which to indicate progress, achievement and qualification. This is quite unsatisfactory and incompatible with a policy of establishing a culture of lifelong learning for all.

All publicly supported education should offer access to a coherent credit framework stretching across the whole range of post-compulsory study, including adult literacy and undergraduate study, and backed by a robust credit accumulation and transfer scheme.

Making the needs of learners paramount

All funders and sponsors of lifelong learning should review the nature and relevance of programmes of study, learning outcomes and the qualifications offered to learners and would-be learners. Providers have to be stimulated to offer what individuals, employers community groups and others want, not merely what the provider has the current capacity to deliver, or what presents fewest difficulties. Funding regimes can be influential here, in the steer they give, but managers of learning provision will always have some room for manoeuvre and scope for focusing on priorities. They need to understand the needs of learners, through conducting systematic enquiry and analysis, and design programmes of study accordingly. As far as practicable qualifications should be portable, cumulative and transferable.

Developing a unit-based, credit framework

We believe that forms of accreditation should be encouraged that remove barriers between what are commonly known as vocational and non-vocational qualifications and the National Targets for Education and Training should also be reviewed, with this in mind. Units or modules based upon multiples of the same notional learning time will enable credit to be accumulated from A levels and GNVQs, for example, towards progression to higher education or elsewhere.

The Kennedy committee and Dearing review also supported the development of a credit framework as an important contribution towards improving access and clarifying the relationship between awards at different levels and the pathways linking them. The framework should provide a record of accreditation for interim achievement and enable learners to build credit throughout their lives.

Unit-based qualifications within a credit framework would:

* Enhance student motivation and improve retention and achievement

* Provide the means to reduceduplication by requiring components of qualifications to be justified on a unit byunit basis

* Encourage those not participating in education to work towards achieving nationally recognised qualifications

* Enable learners to build a personal, relevant portfolio of lifetime achievement

* Ensure that qualifications formed from agreed combinations of mandatory and optional units will meet the diverse needs of employers and individual learners

* Encourage parity of esteem betweenacademic and vocational qualifications

* Facilitate recognition of the fact that anoverarching certificate or qualification may be built up of units at different levels

* Provide an effective means of allocating resources, in that funding can be relatedto credit.

Establishing a unit-based qualifications framework will involve an analysis of existing qualifications into units of achievement and result in a simpler, more flexible and readily understood system. Once the framework isin place, credit will be awarded to learners for successfully completed units. These credits will be able to be accumulated towardsqualifications and, where appropriate,transferred between qualifications withinthe framework.

This is clearly a task which should fall principally to the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority to give leadership, as the publicly appointed guardian of all qualifications outside higher education.

Work should be started to prepare for the development of a coherent credit accumulation and transfer system, building up eventually to embrace all post-school learning. As a first step towards this, we recommend that preparatory work focus upon the development of a unit-based qualification framework infurther education with the following characteristics:

* All national qualifications should be approved by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, with units identified through the analysis of all existing and new qualifications

* Awarding bodies should have the power to propose new units which add value to the national framework

* Units should be defined in terms of size, level and explicit learning outcomes

* Rules of combination should be specified for particular qualifications and especially for qualifications for 16 to 19-year-olds.

To complete this process, we also believe that funding bodies in further and higher education should, over time, move towards a system of funding based on credit.

A learning record

We recommend that more work be done on the development of a national, integrated record of achievement, coordinated by the Qualification and Curriculum Authority.The new record should embrace all learning achievement from school throughout life and command widespread respect for its use and utility.

Technologies to support learning

Government should encourage broadcasting bodies to play a larger role in promotinglifelong learning for all. To do this, we suggest that:

* Government should introduce (orreintroduce) an obligation on all terrestrial broadcasters to educate as well as entertain and inform and should seek to establishsimilar requirements for digital broadcasters

* Broadcasters should use popular mainstream channels to signpost and encourage take up of lifelong learning

* Government should seek to establisha learning channel available on all digital broadcasting delivery platforms.

Access to information technology

Government, funders and providers should establish arrangements to encourage individuals to acquire relevant skills and knowledge. To achieve this we propose that:

* Funding be provided for local learning spaces to establish public access to internet sites. Government should consider extending the tax concessions now available for NVQ programmes to basic training in computer skills and to professional updating

* Government consider offering tax breaks to learners to purchase basic information technology equipment

* Access to skills training in informationtechnology for all employees be made a requirement in Investors in People

* All providers and the Qualification and Curriculum Authority include computer literacy in the definition of basic skills

* The Qualification and Curriculum Authority should also reconsider the strategy whereby 16 to 19-year-old students studying an A-level curriculum acquire information technology key skills in separate and free-standing studies.

Collaboration

Institutions of higher education already have considerable experience in collaborating in the use of information technology through Janet and SuperJanet, and the new strategy should draw on this experience and, if possible, make use of the facilities already developed.

The need for support and changein learning institutions Colleges, schools and universities frequently have equipment which becomes obsolete before it is worn out. It ought to cost such institutions relatively little to offer access seven days a week to equipment for anyone who wishes to use it. Since institutions are already bearing the infra-structural costs, such additional costs would be tied to heating, lighting, learning support workers, caretakers and security staff. In order to support institutional change, we suggest that:

* Funding bodies review their arrangements for ensuring minimum standards of access to technologies, including staff access to email

* A bank of freely available software and audio visual materials be linked to the National Grid for Learning, building on the base already established by the Joint Information Services Committee of the Higher Education Funding Councils, and including material provided by government departments, libraries, museums, the BBC and other publicly funded education and training providers and encourage the development of publicly funded collaborative learning materials

* Funders should require all staff to acquire and regularly upgrade their own learning technology skills.

TERMS OF REFERENCE OF THE ADVISORY GROUP

To advise the secretary of state on matters concerning adult learning as required, and with particular reference to extending the inclusion in lifelong and work-based learning to those groups and individuals whose increased participation will contribute to improvements in employability, regeneration, capacity building, economic efficiency, social cohesion, independent living and citizenship generally; and to make proposals in respect of the following:

* The preparation of a government white paper on lifelong learning

* The strengthening of family and community learning

* The contribution of further and higher education to adult learning, having regard to relevant recommendations of the Kennedy committee and Dearing report

* Initiatives for development in the context of the University for Industry

* The development of learning towns and cities.

Membership Professor R. H. Fryer (chair) Cliff Allen, Maureen Banbury, Jacquie Buffton, Carolyn Daines, Kirstie Donnelly, John Field, Felicity Everiss, Dan Finn, Hywel Francis, Leisha Fullick, Pat Gale, Lucia Jones, Paul Nolan, Sarah Perman, Maggie Semple, Peter Scott, Tom Schuller, Janice Shiner, Gordon Stokes, David Taylor, Alan Tuckett (vice- chair) Secretariat:

Gareth Dent, Jean Goodridge, Ken Ogle

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