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Strategic Intervention in Policy Debate on Adult Lifelong Education

January-March 2021

Centenary Commission and University of Nottingham


“Strategic Intervention in Policy Debate on Adult Lifelong Education”


January-March 2021



The project "Strategic Intervention in Policy Debate on Adult Lifelong Education", co-ordinated by Professor John Holford, aims to strengthen impact from the work of the Centenary Commission on Adult Education. It has two strands. (1) The first focuses on enhancing coverage about adult education in the press and other media, and encouraging policy debate; for this we are working with three journalists. This arm does not conduct research. (2) The second strand, supported by Dr Iain Jones, aims to strengthen regional-level debate about adult education, and involves: (a) a research project using online focus discussion groups and interviews, on the role of mutual aid and community adult education in strengthening communities; and (b) an online workshop with local authorities, FE/HE leaders, independent training providers and the voluntary sector on building regional adult education strategies. Of this second strand, (a) involves research, while (b) is concerned only with dissemination and discussion of research already conducted.


A third and related intervention by the Centenary Commission is based on the work of the research circle on ‘Fostering community, democracy and dialogue’ convened by Dr Sharon Clancy and Dr Iain Jones. Since Autumn 2020, it has been working collectively towards a one day Spring conference.


This is now scheduled for Friday 7th May 2021.



Invitation: ‘Fostering community, democracy and dialogue through adult lifelong education’


Context: 1919, 2019 and a conference on 7 May 2021


In 1919, as Britain recovered from a devastating World War, and the Spanish Flu Pandemic, the Ministry of Reconstruction published an extraordinarily powerful report, visionary in its scope and practical in its detail, on the key role adult education had to play in fostering an active democracy, enriching communities, and nourishing curiosity and a love of learning. Adult education, it argued, was ‘a permanent national necessity’. The authors of the 1919 Report were drawn from a spectrum of those with an interest in rejuvenating the economy and society after the devastation of world war, along with those with experience in delivering adult education.


In 2018, a group of adult educators, recognising the historic importance of the 1919 Ministry of Reconstruction Adult Education Committee’s Final Report, set up the Adult Education 100 campaign. The campaign wished to encourage a programme of activities, centred on the centenary of the 1919 Report, which would both recover and re-evaluate the twentieth-century history of adult education, and set out a vision for life-wide adult lifelong education for the 21st century through their report.


The Centenary Commission on Adult Education Report: Adult Education and Lifelong Learning for 21st Century Britain (2019)

( was published in pre-pandemic times. But, like its predecessor, we are now at a critical time, as we face a series of social, political, economic, health, technological and demographic challenges. The report, and the latest work of the Commission, aims to be equally visionary in scope and practical in its detail, for the good of our democracy, society, economy, and for the health and wellbeing of our citizens.


Reshaping Adult Education for the 21st Century


Why does adult education need to be radically reshaped? We recognise, for instance, that provision in the past has not always been as good at overcoming inequality as we would like. But with a century of effort, experimentation and achievement, in building inclusive forms of adult education to engage marginalised communities, there is a mass of experience to learn from.



Our invitation to conference: 7th May 2021


The Centenary Commission on Adult Education Report (2019) focused on six themes for development. The third of these on ‘Fostering community, democracy and dialogue’ is the central theme for the online conference on 7th May – designed as an exchange of experience and critical engagement with the possibilities of new forms of practice.


We, and other members of the research circle, look forward to joining with you and listening to, and learning from, your experiences as we find ways of understanding and learning from one another.


What next ?


To be added to mailing list, and receive further details of event on 7th May, please email


Sharon Clancy


Iain Jones


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