Whatever happened to our vision of a learning society: The Learning Age 20 years on

9 January 2018

‘The Learning Age’, a Government Green Paper published in the 1990s, includes a preface by David Blunkett which offers a generous vision of the value of lifelong learning. Lord Blunkett recognises the role adult learning plays in securing prosperous and inclusive economics, highlighting the importance of a “well-educated, well-equipped and adaptable labour force” to cope with rapid social and economic change.

Lord Blunkett also identifies that learning is of critical importance to the creation and sustenance of healthy communities as “learning enables people to play a full part in their community and consequently the nation”.

To mark the anniversary and the initiatives that flowed from ‘The Learning Age’, and to review current prospects for lifelong learning, the University of Wolverhampton is mounting a conference on Friday 16 February, ‘Whatever happened to our vision of a learning society: The Learning Age 20 years on?’

The conference will open with a video interview with Lord Blunkett, followed by a keynote address from John Field and responses from Andy Westwood and Lorna Unwin.

There are four group sessions to choose from in the morning:

  • Participation and the benefits of learning – led by Fiona Aldridge and Tom Schuller
  • Quality, equality and inclusion – led by Peter Lavender and Jan Eldred
  • Technological innovation – led by Margaret Bennett and John Traxler
  • Innovation, innovation, innovation – ILAs, NHSU, Learning cities – led by Alastair Thomson and Ian Nash.

Followed by four afternoon sessions:

  • Workplace learning and the impact of Unionlearn – led by Tom Wilson and Lorna Unwin
  • Adults in and into higher education – led by Liz Marr and Tom Sperlinger
  • Further education colleges and the FE sector – led by Julian Gravatt and, Mick Fletcher
  • Community learning – led by Martin Yarnit and Jo Cain

Additionally, two parallel panels will take place throughout the day which explore Skills for Life and its legacy, as well as perspectives from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. These panels will include features from Susan Pember, Lyn Tett, Vicky Duckworth, Jim Gallacher, Paul Nolan and Rob Humphreys.

To end the day, a plenary looking at lessons for the future has Tom Schuller, Leisha Fullick and myself as speakers.

Adult learning has suffered a series of setbacks in recent years, with major losses of numbers participating in further and community provision, and a half of mature students lost from higher education. The overall aim of the day is to draw inspiration from the imaginative initiatives of the 1990s and to foster new energies for a renaissance of commitment to life-long life-wide learning.

The event is sponsored by Learning and Work Institute, The Education and Training Foundation, HOLEX and the Universities Association for Lifelong Learning.

Date: Friday 16 February
Time: 10:00am – 4:00pm
Venue: Chancellor’s Hall in the University of Wolverhampton

Do join us – The conference costs £100, but there are subsidised free places for people who can’t afford the fee.



Alan Tuckett, Professor of Education, University of Wolverhampton